WelTec students help iwi Te Āti Awa with new build as need for community services grows

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In response to a growing need from the community for immunisations, parenting support, financial advice, food relief and other hauora services, Te Āti Awa wanted to create more space at their main complex in Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt, and has turned to 22 students studying construction trades skills at Petone-based Institute of Technology, WelTec, for some help.

WelTec and Te Āti Awa already work closely together to support ākonga (students) gain qualifications and transition into work, and this opportunity meant WelTec trades students could put their study into practice, and experience work on a ‘real life’ construction project - and help the community.

“We have always had a good partnership with WelTec, and we share the Tamaiti Whāngai learner support model with them for ākonga Māori at the Petone campus, the connection is getting stronger and stronger as we work together to support our young people,” says Wirangi Luke, chief executive of Te Āti Awa.

“We had a similar arrangement with WelTec in 2012 when students were brought in to help us with our existing buildings as part of their hands-on trades learning, and even now, we get those graduates come back with their whānau and reflect with pride how they helped their iwi with these bricks and mortar,” says Wirangi. “Not only are projects like these a way for students to learn ‘on the job’ but they are also a way to link people back to their iwi and communities.”

Students Tipalelupe and Elyssa with their tutor Richard Carter on site

Henry Ma’alo and Richard Carter are the WelTec tutors who have been guiding the students on site in Waiwhetu.

“The benefit of getting the students onto a live site like this is that they learn how to work and manage themselves in a real job situation,” says Henry. “Things like demeanour, timeliness, communication, appropriate attire, and being professional all become really important. Students know they are in the public eye and there are expectations from the iwi about the finished product, but also on how the process is run.

“Each week one of the students has the opportunity to be the team leader, and it has been amazing to watch them grow into this responsibility and work more cohesively as a group. The learning is broad, and exponential,” says Henry.  “They are excited to come to work every day, they know this building is important to the community and they feel proud to be part of that.

“We do all of the practical work with the students on the site, and Te Āti Awa provided the group with laptops and a nice sunny room on the second floor to work through the theory components. This means students can do all of their learning in the same place. Once a week a member of the learning support team at WelTec will come down from the Petone campus to see the students to assist where needed and make sure they are all keeping up with their study,” says Henry.

Tipalelupe Tafaovale, who finished school at Rongotai College last year, sees the benefit in the project: “This is great because it benefits us, the students, as well as the community. It shows that we are capable and practical. Not just students sitting at desks. I think it really helps us to see that what we are learning can be used to do really cool things."

Elyssa Norman, who is also part of the student cohort on the build and finished year 13 at St Mary’s last year, is excited about the experience and sees the WelTec programme as a gateway into the industry. “After this, I definitely plan to complete an apprenticeship and then I’d like to start my own company. Working on this project with Te Āti Awa is so special because the community are here with us every step of the way. When we started Te Āti Awa officially welcomed us onto the land and we shared kai.”

All of the students working on this project are studying at WelTec as part of the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training scholarship, which is a government-funded scholarship to cover full fees and course-related costs. The students will complete their New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Level 3) Carpentry programme at the end of the year, with most moving onto their Level 4 Certificate.

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