Learning English, while tackling the tools

Paulo Oliveira moved from Brazil to New Zealand five years ago. What was meant to be a four-month exchange to learn English, turned into a decision to stay and enter the trades. Nearing the end of his BCITO | Te Pūkenga training to become a builder, we spoke to him about his unique journey into the industry.

“Before coming to New Zealand, I worked for the world’s biggest, multinational, open-cast mining company. I would hear English spoken around me, but I could never understand what they were saying. I found this frustrating, so I decided to move to New Zealand for four months and learn English. My life changed after getting to know the country and seeing the opportunities Aotearoa has to offer,” says Paulo.

One of the main opportunities Paulo identified was the chance to do his apprenticeship through BCITO. From an early age he’d always been interested in construction and when he got to New Zealand, he reflected on his life goals and wrote these down – his top one, was to become a builder.

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“When I first got here, I set some goals for myself, so if I ever got the opportunity to stay, I had an idea what I’d like to do. Becoming a builder here in New Zealand was top of my list, as it’s always been a dream of mine, so I feel very fortunate that this dream is coming true,” continues Paulo.

For Paulo the biggest challenge throughout his BCITO training was learning the theory and skills in a second language that he’d only been practising for a short period of time.

“I’ll admit, doing my apprenticeship in English has been hard, but I knew it was an obstacle I could overcome. I like to think “I killed two birds with one stone” as I use my study materials and books about construction to get better at English.

“My Training Advisor, Blair Hendren, has been very patient with me, particularly at the beginning when my English was not so good. He always supports me and helps me whenever I need it. BCITO also has an excellent teaching platform, which is easy to access and has several language options,” continues Paulo.

Since becoming apprentice, Paulo has taken part in the Registered Master Builders Apprentice of the Year competition, placing second at the 2022 National Event. Due to finish his apprenticeship soon, Paulo is already setting himself new goals so he can continue to upskill.

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“Next step for me is to do a construction management course, another great opportunity that will add to my CV. I’m also working on a 500 square metre, three storey build, which has been a very rewarding challenge.

“My advice for anyone thinking of doing a BCITO apprenticeship is to believe in yourself! It’s the best way to get into the industry, meet like-minded people and network for opportunities – and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Aotearoa New Zealand construction needs more people to consider an apprenticeship. For more information and to learn what support is available, visit: https://bcito.org.nz/apprentices/.

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