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Mark Dobbs - Director of md construction
“I’m in the third year of my ITAB carpentry apprenticeship with md construction, mostly building new timber framed houses, alterations and additions, and some light commercial buildings. At NorthTec we have to complete unit standards and also attend two two-week block courses a year, for three years. We do both theory and practical projects.”
“The best part of our training is the theory because we get introduced to things that we may not get taught on site for quite some time – like door-locks, stairs and pitched roofing. The tutors teach us practical tricks plus they challenge us to build things like a ten sided flared out flower pot.”
“I directly experience the relevance of our training to what we do on the job. We’ve been introduced to a broad range of industry skills and we’re trained in how to problem solve. We also learn how to deal with clients, contractors and customers. Because the NorthTec workshops are so well equipped, we learn to competently use machinery like buzzers and digital thicknesses that we would rarely come across on site.”
“My skills were put to the test when I won the Northland Certified Builders Apprentice Challenge in 2016. We had to build a complex playhouse in eight hours. I then attended the national competition in Wellington where 11 of us from around New Zealand were competing. I didn’t receive a top 3 placing but won a big challenge where we had to design and build a push bike which is now on display at the New Zealand Certified Builders support office. We also had to give a 5 minute presentation on a job we had completed.”
“I really enjoy what I do and have the added interest of developing a vineyard near Dargaville so my construction skills come in handy for that too. At the moment I’m simply focussing on finishing each work project we have and will see what unfolds from there.”
“I’m training my fifth apprentice now in the 29 years I have been in the building trade. I’m passionate about the training side of the industry and passing off my knowledge to keen guys wanting to get into the building trade. I am currently on the national board of the New Zealand Certified Builders Association, one of two building associations in NZ.”
“We choose the ITAB training scheme which I believe is the superior of two training schemes available to apprentice carpenters, the other being BCITO. The three guys I have working for me have all trained under the ITAB scheme with my company. One is now qualified, one is in the first year of his apprenticeship and Lockie is in his third year.”
“They are required to do unit standards and block courses through NorthTec which is completed over a three year period. A further one year is required to complete their 8000 hours. I believe that our ITAB apprentices come out of their time with the best possible training thanks to NorthTec. They are taught building theory in a classroom environment and get to learn and practise practical projects that are sometimes not taught on site – like how to do roofing calculations for pitches and angles in alterations and additions.”
“NorthTec training is top quality with passionate tutors, up-to-date technology and some of the best facilities in the country. We’re lucky to have tutors that have been builders themselves so they are experts in what they are teaching, they can create a real connection between themselves and the students, and they have current networks within the industry.”
“I trained at NorthTec myself 29 years ago and I believe the ITAB training is far superior to my training because they not only complete their block courses and hours but also have to complete unit standards across the board in lots of particular tasks that ensure they have a real understanding in most aspects of building practices.”
“I’m pleased ITAB training has re-introduced the stipulation of an 8000 hour apprenticeship along with the unit standards. It sets a clear goal for the apprentices so they know when they have completed their time and the ITAB apprenticeship is held in high regard by industry. NorthTec and the ITAB training scheme is where I’ll continue to train our future apprentices.”
“If anyone has been out of the work look for a while, studying at NorthTec is a good place to start back into it...
“I couldn’t find work for about two years so was looking at what to study to upskill and NorthTec had the biggest range of options. I’m loving it - especially the practical work we do out and about on real jobs so we learn by doing, with the theory woven in as we go.”
“Keeping on top of the study was hard for me at the start but, with the tutor’s support, I’m top of it now and I’m amazed at how confident I’ve become. Confidence affects everything and makes life easier and smoother. If anyone has been out of the work look for a while, studying at NorthTec is a good place to start back into it again. ”
“Our class works really well together as a team and we all rotate tasks like masking, painting and plastering so everyone keeps up with everything. We laugh a lot but still meet the expected standards. Getting this qualification will show both myself and anyone I work for that I can do quality work.”
“I hope to get an apprenticeship when I finish and the tutor has contacts to help that happen. My dream is to know how to plaster and paint really well, and when I’ve got more experience, to have my own business and employ others.”
I’m one of the youngest but we all get along because we’re interested in the same things. It’s one of the best...
“I love everything about this course. I like doing the hands-on work and the feeling of satisfaction when we’ve made something, and it’s a lot easier to learn here than at school because I can see why we need to know things. I remember building a table and chairs at school in construction and it was my favourite subject because it was so hands-on.”
“But it’s a real surprise that I’m doing construction now. I wanted to do engineering and mechanics but Dad suggested I do construction because I could always get a job and that I’d be outside instead of in a shed. I didn’t really want to but I agreed to do it. It seems he knew something, because I love it. I’m even happy to catch my sister’s school bus so that I can get here.”
“We’ve already been building things on-campus like tables, a saw-horse, and making a chiselled-out box for an oilstone. Making things gives you such a sense of achievement. The other students are really friendly and we all help each other, just as a group should. I’m one of the youngest but we all get along because we’re interested in the same things. It’s one of the best classes I’ve ever been in. Everyone is so relaxed and just getting on with it.”
“I want to carry on and do level 3 where we start building fences and a deck. By getting this ticket I’ll always be able to get work and I can still do engineering later or as a hobby and fix up an old car. Once I’ve had enough experience, my dream is to design and build my own house from scratch.”
I have to focus to keep up but I’m surprised at how much more I’m memorising than I have in the past, because I’m...
“When I was a kid I loved making things with blocks and play dough. I built a tree-house for our cat from scrap wood from our house. Other family members are now in brick laying and building so I know what I’m in for and I love it.”
“I did the free course last year and was a lot more interested in it than I thought I’d be, so when I saw the pamphlet about this next level, I was in. It had the subjects I was interested in and I’m loving what I’m learning. The tutor is strict but laid back. He puts things in order then leaves us to do the work at our own pace but he’ll put us back on track if we need it. The other students are all guys but we all support each other and socialize together – including the tutor.”
“I have to focus to keep up but I’m surprised at how much more I’m memorising than I have in the past, because I’m really keen and the tutor helps us with study skills.”
“From here I want to get an apprenticeship then hope to build family homes in the community. At the moment it’s one step at a time.”
“It’s so much easier to learn here than at school because we’re doing what we love, the tutors are really cool, and...
“I was doing construction as work experience at school for an hour a day and loving it so I knew I wanted to go into building. Some of my mates had done this course so I signed up straight after the school holidays.”
“It’s so much easier to learn here than at school because we’re doing what we love, the tutors are really cool, and we’re independent so we do the work because we want to not because we’re told to.”
“I’m the youngest in the course and it was hard at first because I had no mates here, but now we all know each other and get on well. When I finish here I hope to get an apprenticeship. The tutors have good connections to help with that but I’ll find my own as well.”
“My dream is to build my own house, be my own boss and have some people working for me. To other students out there that don’t like school but are into something else, I’d say go and do the training for what you’re interested in."
The combination of the learning journey and being student rep is strengthening my personal growth and character so I...
“I’m doing the construction course and am also the student rep here. I’m doing construction because I don’t want to pay someone to do what I know I’m capable of doing myself. Money matters in this day and age and my end goal is to either renovate or build my own home.”
“And I’m student rep because I love helping people, and helping people to think outside the box. My lifetime ambition since I was about 15 was to be in event management because I saw it as a way to get satisfaction by helping people from behind the scenes. Being student rep in similar in some ways.”
“Doing both the course and the student rep role means I’ve got to stay onto my time management and to keep lifting my game around communication. We all communicate in different styles and I’m learning what works around different personalities. I enjoy people and approaching and supporting new students.”
“The combination of the learning journey and being student rep is strengthening my personal growth and character so I’m becoming more confident.”
“Hopefully I can use both experiences to find employment - either in construction or in aged care. My dream is to have the satisfaction of building my own home while at the same time looking for what I can do for my community. It’s all about learning and giving.”
I especially love learning about the bigger tools and how to use them safely. And I’ve fallen in love with the hand...
“I’ve always loved working with wood but felt like it was a boys’ thing. The idea kept coming back and I wanted to study while the kids were still at home so this basic course was a good place to start. Having another girl in the class too made it easier to come on board. I’ve just finished the course, and construction is definitely what I want to do.”
“I especially love learning about the bigger tools and how to use them safely. And I’ve fallen in love with the hand router. I had no idea it existed and I love using it. We had the most amazing tutor and he treated everyone the same. He set strict boundaries and disciplines plus we felt comfortable enough to ask him absolutely anything. If I mucked up with a project, I would call it ‘customizing it’ and together we would work out how to improve it.”
“Maths was my challenge but once I could see the relevance for it, I was keen enough to spend extra study time and managed to work it out. I want to craft and sell my own small furniture and to fix my house and I need the maths to do that.”
“Since I’ve finished the course, I’m making a lot more pieces at home. My motivation and my standard of work have both really lifted. I’ll be applying for the next level course next year so that I’ve got more options to get into construction work wherever and whenever I want – either in jobs or for myself.”
“Having my own business creating and selling small pieces of furniture would be the ultimate for me.”
“The way I can study at NorthTec is just awesome – I’m able to study at NorthTec and learn from not just the tutors...
I’m loving being around people who love what I love, and it opens your eyes to be amongst people with different ideas...
“I’ve always loved DIY and have done a bit of carpentry in my work as a caretaker of a primary school. This course is great because it’s giving me the basics in a very practical way. After the hard labour comes the incredible satisfaction of having created something.”
“I’m loving being around people who love what I love, and it opens your eyes to be amongst people with different ideas and attitudes. The tutor is excellent and finds a way that works for how I like to learn.”
“Doing the course offers a lot of skills that will benefit me in my career and I hope to train further in construction probably at NorthTec. Ultimately I’d love to manage my own business in construction.”
“I now look forward to Mondays to learn more, and I find rolling paint on walls soothing and very satisfying.”
“I now look forward to Mondays to learn more, and I find rolling paint on walls soothing and very satisfying. Two months before starting this course I quit my job in a warehouse and was just chilling at home. A friend was doing level 4 in this painting course and said level 2 still had some spaces and was fees-free, so I wanted to give it a go. I always used to do drawings and colour them, so I’m loving it.”
“The only tricky bit for me is masking out for the windows and doors but I’m improving at that now. I’m surprised that we also do plastering, scaffolding and health and safety, so I’m enjoying learning new things. The students are a real mix of backgrounds and ages but we all get along well and the older ones have already done some painting and plastering so we help each other out.”
“We’re already painting as a class around NorthTec’s Raumanga campus with the tutors supervising, and if we go on and complete level 3 and 4, a group of us might invest in a van and tools, hire some scaffolding and start a business. With the boom in housing there’s plenty of painting work around.”
“My real dream though is to spray-paint cars – and the level 4 programme teaches us spray-painting.”
“The best thing about being at NorthTec is that it is close to home, I didn’t have to move away from my family. I...
I’m at the end of my second year as an apprentice with Ken Topp Builders, so I come to block courses at NorthTec for...
“I’m at the end of my second year as an apprentice with Ken Topp Builders, so I come to block courses at NorthTec for two weeks twice a year. We also get four site visits a year where the tutors check that we’re accountable for the tasks we say we’ve done there.”
“I was initially going to be an engineer but I talked to a guy who said that building better lined up with my goals and aspirations, because I enjoy working outside and I want to become a business owner. I started building straight from school for another builder but I left in search of a more bespoke firm with bigger vision. Learning is a key component to where I want to go. I found Ken on the search and he had a vacancy at the time so he took me on, then suggested I do an apprenticeship. I jumped at the chance.”
“Ken employs a team of 17 but I work mostly on jobs just with one other guy, so I learn a lot because we get to do everything. Doing the block courses is great because the tutor breaks things down and gives us the why. I love knowing stuff and I’m good at retaining information so I enjoy the paperwork too. At the moment we’re learning about steel grades and concrete slabs. I love it. If you’re a labourer, you go to work to work, but I know the qualification is important to really get somewhere.”
“My growth has been in the extent of what I’ve learnt. On site we do a lot, including hanging doors and steps, but the block courses give us the opportunity to push past what we know, to make mistakes and to learn from them. On the job, mistakes matter so you tend to stay safe in what you tackle.”
“I continue to learn on site and I’m now in charge of safety and compliance. Because there are just two of us in our team and we do architectural builds, we’re working on the same house for months and it’s very satisfying knowing you’ve created most of that building.”
“I’m saving up to buy my own house to renovate and sell, so at the moment I’ve started doing my own jobs in the weekends to earn extra money. I also recently built a cabin and sold it so that was a big learning curve. I love the mix of physical effort and mental learning, so working as an apprentice for Ken is perfect for that.”
"I gave myself a gap year to learn carpentry!” Since completing the NorthTec course Louise had continued to study...
Louise has continued to study since completing the NorthTec carpentry course, and she is steadily developing a wide base of skills to help her achieve her goals. “I want to teach eco-building, and set up a business utilising mud-brick techniques and arts practices.”
Before the NorthTec course, Louise had not done any woodwork. “I wanted to make sure the course would be value for money so I spoke with the tutor before enrolling. He was very encouraging and thorough in providing answers and documentation, so at 44 years old I gave myself a gap year to learn carpentry!”
“Moving from Auckland to an old villa between Whangarei and Dargaville, I wanted the skills to be able to renovate it. The rest of my classmates were young guys aged 17 to 25 and I thought they’d be way better than me, but I was motivated and interested in ways that they weren’t.
“This could be frustrating for me and for them sometimes but I think it was good for them that I was there. As a female I would have to think through ways of doing things sometimes, rather than relying on brute force.”
The course also gave Louise an entrée into architectural design. And for her practicum she worked two days a week for an eco-builder.
“The ultimate would be to have a property that was built of natural materials, offered courses in sustainable living, and had its own food sources. I want to lift the perception of building so it is seen as a contemporary craft that requires attention to detail, aesthetics, and mathematics. Having more women in the industry can help this happen.”
Louise is now well on the way to realising her business goals around sustainable building utilising mud-brick.