Not your average apprentice

Kelly Irvine isn’t your typical apprentice. She represents a growing trend in people who may have up to seven career changes in entirely different sectors before age 40.

Kelly Irvine

Before starting her apprenticeship at Lee Brothers (Rotorua), Kelly worked a diverse range of jobs, from Promotions Coordinator in the entertainment industry for MediaWorks, to flying abroad, where she worked as an Account Manager for a coffee roastery in London. If she set her mind on something, no role title was out of her limits!

Like many Joiners, Kelly’s detail-orientated nature has led to her fascination with woodworking and it was almost in the cards that her career would be within the joinery industry.

Like all good stories, there’s always a serendipitous moment. Kelly shares, “Lee Brothers listed an advertisement looking for an apprentice Joiner/Cabinet Maker on Seek. My partner had just been offered a job in Rotorua, so the timing was perfect. I applied, and I got the job.

“I feel at my best as a Joiner. It’s hands-on. I get to create unique pieces that clients get excited about. Being physically active is important to me and installing kitchens provides an all-body workout. The variety never ceases to surprise, one week I’ll be putting together a kitchen, and the next it will be a set of sashes or an entrance door.

As a joiner, you’re in a continuous cycle of accomplishment. Once a job is done you admire your output, reset, and move on to the next job – it’s undeniably awesome. I love it!”

Having the ‘insiders’ scoop’ of being a 32-year-old female in building and construction, Kelly says, “Being in full-time employment while working toward a qualification is of huge benefit. Having experienced work colleagues who can guide you through things, who have been in your position before is also very valuable. The experience is universal, and being qualified will open up some great opportunities.”

One of these opportunities was the chance to submit an entry into the 2021 Apprentice Best Timber project under two years hosted by the industry at the NZMJ Gala Awards dinner. Kelly admits, “Originally, I wasn’t keen to enter as I was so early on in my apprenticeship, but my boss (thankfully) put a little pressure on, and I got my entry board together and won.” For Kelly, the moment was a little surreal. “It was encouraging to know I was on the right track. Being thrown in the deep end has some real benefits especially seeing how proud my family was of me.”

Support is important for anyone pursuing their dream career and Kelly’s friends are not shy to show their encouragement. With a smile, Kelly teases, “A few of them are buying houses at the moment, so I think they can see the future benefits.”

Now more than ever before, it is healthy to reflect and find perspective. Kelly says, “A few months back, I made a stain quality, cedar TGV entrance door with top and bottom rails. When I was given the job, I felt a little intimidated, but my manager made me realise I did have the skills to complete the job. After a few discussions with my workmate, I progressed through the project, and the finished product only served to reinforce I’ve never felt so proud of myself and such a sense of achievement.

“It’s refreshing working in an industry with so many moving parts. As I see it, the career opportunities are endless. At this stage though, getting qualified is my main focus, and that will keep me busy for the next three years.”

For Kelly, life is great and both Rotorua and Lee Brothers are home. She says,“It’s refreshing to work for a company that sees the importance of work-life balance. I can pop into the workshop on a weekend to complete a personal project or spend time camping and hiking when the weather is warm. When it’s not – a game of darts and listening to music is how I recharge.

BCITO wishes Kelly and all career changers in their trade career of choice.

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