Graduate Profile

Daniel McLaren - ITAB Apprentice

Daniel McLaren - Construction

ITAB Apprentice

“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.”


Employer of Daniel McLaren

Ken Topp - Ken Topp Builders

“When Daniel approached me for work I liked that he had the initiative to do the research and seek out the level of building work he wanted. He keen to get somewhere in life. He had already done a few weeks on the tools and he’d started to get his own kit together. We happened to have a spot at the time so I was happy to have him on board.”

“We have 17 on the staff so we’re one of the bigger employers in the trade in Whangarei, and at the moment Daniel is one of seven apprentices here. Apprentices are an integral part of our business and they range from adult apprentices to beginners. Overall we usually employ one or two people a year because there is a natural attrition rate too as people move on. When we’re looking to take someone on, it’s usually by word of mouth and people tend to come to us if they know we’re looking. If we had an unmet gap, I would ask NorthTec who their top runner candidate was, but we still like to know who the person is, why they’re keen and what their aspirations are in the industry.”

“We like the NorthTec apprenticeship training because it’s hands-on and covers some of the old skills that companies don’t teach any more like calculations for roofing, which is quite a science, and how to set out houses. They also cover the little things like how to build a saw stool, as well as the paperwork that the extra-mural ITAB courses cover. The only downside is that we lose our apprentice for four weeks a year and we’re paying them for that. The timing is staggered between the apprentices but it’s still something we’d like to re-work a bit. Years ago we did a lot more night classes, so we could revisit that for maybe once a week then reduce the time they’re away at day school.”

“We do totally domestic work with about 25 per cent of that being residential and 60 per cent being baches and renovations. Daniel is great to have here. He’s all-skilled and does everything. We’ll probably move him on to working with a bigger team of four in the next house we do so he gets exposed to different ways that the guys do things, and give him an even broader experience.”


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