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A NorthTec graduate who once faced bankruptcy is now running his own architectural design business.
Blair Panther, from Whangarei, credits his own determination and his studies at NorthTec for successfully turning his life around.
Blair, 39, always wanted to become an architect, but his early experiences of the workplace frightened him off this career path. Instead he moved into the telecommunications industry, working as an electronic technician.
From there he moved into retail sales of electronic appliances for several years, but still harboured a passion for designing homes and enjoyed renovating his own properties.
Blair said: “As my passion for property grew I moved my retail skills into real estate and ultimately I started designing and building houses. I would come up with a design that suited the land and take the plan to a draftsperson to make it a reality on paper, then we built it.”
But he ran into problems with a “rogue builder” who, Blair says, disappeared from a project with the money intended for investment in the property, and also made many mistakes in the construction process. Coming on top of the global financial crisis, the incident was enough to ruin Blair’s burgeoning career and caused huge damage to both his health and his financial situation, ultimately leading him to bankruptcy.
However, Blair refused to give up, and after a period of reflection he managed to pick himself up and start planning a new life. He said: “I started out again with a new plan - what if I studied? What if I used this time to qualify myself?”
He enrolled at NorthTec to study for a two-year National Diploma in Architectural Technology, and was delighted to find his faith in himself confirmed when he was awarded a prize for being the top student in his first year.
Blair said: “It confirmed for me that I was meant to do this all along. My second year was a balancing act between study and solo full-time parenting, but the assistance from NorthTec was brilliant.”
He was also very pleased to be nominated as a committee member for the Northland branch of the New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB) while still a student, where he found others who were equally “passionate about the construction industry and pushing forward Northland”.
His story continued after graduation at the end of 2015, when Blair discovered that it was difficult searching for employment as a solo parent.
“Again with some determination I started my own business. I thought I would be designing homes but through the contacts I have made in the last two years I have been directed towards more commercial work, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Only six months down the track I am working on a couple of commercial jobs through my own company, I have also started my own renovation business as well as a rental company where I am about to buy a third house.
“I am still on the NZIOB committee as well as keeping up with other commitments. At the age of 39 I am now regrasping some form of direction for my future, thanks to some determination and NorthTec. I can only encourage anyone to get out there and do something. If you can’t find work then make work! If I can do this much then anyone can.”