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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.”
I decided to study at NorthTec because I know Henry, the tutor quite well. He’s a family friend and decided to come...
“I'm really glad I joined NorthTec because it was just really easy to learn, and I learned heaps just from level 2...
“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 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...
“It has been difficult for me to be back in the classroom after over 30 years, but the tutors have been really...
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.