Whitireia graduate forges the way for young women in the building industry

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​Azaria Felagai has gone from carpentry training at Whitireia last year to working on projects for construction firm Hawkins.

“It's pretty intense working in the industry, but I'm definitely in the right place. At the moment I'm working on apartments in Roxburgh Street,” says Azaria. “Hawkins has also been moving me around lately so I get used to different parts of the business.”

“I've learned so much right from my first day. When my colleagues mention certain timbers or parts of the building, we covered that on the course so I have a good idea of what they're talking about,” she says.
Azaria studied the pre-trade Certificate in Carpentry qualification last year at Whitireia in Porirua. “We learned the basics of carpentry. It got us used to using the tools that I use now on the job,” she says.

“Looking back I enjoyed just getting in there, I hate sitting around. We built a house from the ground up and we were so proud we did that, doing something that people didn't think we could do,” says Azaria. “I'd like to encourage more females into the trade industry because our abilities as women are underestimated.”

The 18-year-old says she didn't really have an idea of what she wanted to do after finishing school, however, her dad had encouraged her to follow her interests.

“My dad pushed me to do it. He does a lot of work around the house and I've always helped him with that. I'd also built a chair for school and everyone said 'oh, you're really good at that',” says Azaria. “I also already had friends signed up for carpentry. It's worked out great for me.”

While she was studying she worked part-time on Thursday and Friday, her non-class days.

“We did labouring work through a recruitment company to gain experience. They were also trying to get me a full-time opportunity once I'd finished, but the Hawkins opportunity came up first. My tutor put my name forward for that. I did work experience for three weeks and then they hired me.”

Azaria Felagai at Hawkins2

Azaria Felagai with Site Manager Darren Mead (left) and Site Supervisor Joe Witana (right) in front of the Hawkins building site in Wellington.

Azaria received a Pasifika Trades Training Scholarship, which supported her financially as well as providing mentoring support.

“I'm grateful for Whitireia and all the tutors as I wouldn't be where I am without them. They really treated us well and would come and ask us how we're doing on-site. Even now I'm waiting for a tool grant which is part of the scholarship so they're still helping me out,” she says. “My family too gave me endless support throughout.”

Matt Wilton, Hawkins Wellington Regional Manager, strongly endorses the Wellington Māori and Pasifika Trades Training programme, “It is providing a significant and much needed pipeline of talented women and men into our industry. Azaria is a wonderful addition to our team and we look forward to supporting her continued growth and development. More women should be looking at construction as a career opportunity particularly those that like working in teams, working with tools in an exciting industry with a lot of opportunities.”

“Getting more women in careers like trades is very good for women, but it is also good for the New Zealand construction industry where there is high growth and high demand. Women bring a different set of abilities that helps to broaden a company’s overall set of skills,” says Wilton.