Cyril Taranaki’s pathway into the Brick and Block trade is not uncommon, “I got the job through word of mouth at the footy club. The foreman’s dad asked if I wanted to try bricklaying and I wasn’t really working at the time as I had just finished High School. I rang Vaughan and he was keen to take me on, I met him on the Monday nice and early and six months later he offered me an apprenticeship. I never looked back. I went to year 13 at school but it was pretty hit and miss after that. Once I got my apprenticeship sorted out, it was good and everything worked itself out.”
Cyril says, “I was looking to go to MIT but it never really took off for me. I didn’t get my application in and then this job came in and a few mates at the footy club already had trades and they said do a trade you will have it for life and go wherever you want.”
Brick & block layers are struggling to find staff and need to consider how word of mouth in their local community can help with this. Utilising current staff to get the word out about employment opportunities is a valuable tool. Young people are influenced by what their peers are doing. So if a guy down at the rugby club is talking about an opportunity, it may be to people who had never considered Brick & Block Laying as a career. “I never knew about bricklaying at all,” said Cyril. “Now I have my little brother working here. I was working during his holidays so I just asked him to come to work with me. We got here an hour early just to run him through stuff so when Vaughan the owner of VJ Oliver Bricklaying Ltd got here, Blair knew what to do, he had a knack for it straight away. Vaughn offered him a job that day. He was 15 when he started and now he can drive. He is learning responsibility with money and that sort of thing. It is good to see my little brother coming up and making a man out of himself.”
"It wasn’t always easy," Cyril said, “My mum is pretty happy with me going into a trade she told me to stick at it when I found it hard at the start. I put my head down and now I’m nearly finished. I’m not super smart with Maths and stuff like that. When I got the books it was pretty terrifying, if I looked at paperwork I was like '...oh no!' On site though you get shown how to do something then shown in the book then I just pick it up like that. I’m hands-on. You walk through it with your trainer and they encourage you to do it at your own pace, but make sure you are doing it right! It wasn’t too bad.”
Vaughan Oliver has some strong beliefs about how his staff and apprentices should be treated. “I was treated pretty hard as an apprentice and I would say some of it I deserved, but some I definitely did not deserve. I reckon young people would quit now if they were treated like that. I’m a big believer in treating people how you would want to be treated.
“I have had a lot of apprentices in the last 20 years. Some guys need more attention than others and that is just the way it is. It is like the gym, you have to work your way up the heavy weights. You can’t expect the young guys to be able to do it all as soon as they start. You have to give the apprentices a chance to mature and grow up. Often with guys they have to learn through mistakes. If you have good men then you will have good bricklayers and good tradespeople. It is important to work with them and it isn’t just about bricklaying,” said Vaughan.
Vaughan’s belief in giving people an opportunity was shown when he encouraged Cyril to go for a BCITO Outward Bound Scholarship. He saw it as a great way to give Cyril some confidence and leadership skills. “I looked up Outward Bound and there were heaps of things going on. Everyone was saying how tough it was. I was offered the chance so why not just jump for the opportunity and Vaughn encouraged me. He said I needed it, I did sort of need it. I have come back a little different, and my values have changed like the things I do and say to people - if I wouldn’t want someone to say something to me, I won’t say it to them,” Cyril says.
Cyril’s pathway into Bricklaying has provided him with a lot of opportunities and a very positive future. “Hopefully I will go out on my own. Not in the near future but it is my end goal,” Cyril says.
At VJ Oliver Bricklaying Ltd they work hard but they have a pride in their work. Cyril says, “If you do a nice job you walk away with a bit of pride, that’s why I enjoy my job.”
(left to right) Kurt White (foreman) Vaughan Oliver (employer) Blair Taranaki, Cyril Taranaki
Female trade apprentices are loving their career choice, but few considered a career in building or construction while they were at school, research shows.
Brad Gemmell qualified as a bricklayer at 21 years of age and hopped on a plane to London, ready to put his skills to the test. He returned to New Zealand a few years later and began his own business, Brad the Brickie Ltd in Wanaka.