Young WelTec carpentry graduate aims to inspire more wahine into the trades

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WelTec carpentry graduate, Sarah Clark, wants to start a company that champions female tradies. Sarah is currently employed by Tonks Residential, a local construction company, as an apprentice builder. 

Sarah was introduced to the company while she was completing her Level 3 carpentry programme at WelTec in Lower Hutt, as part of her Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) scholarship. The scholarship supports students from entry into study, right through to employment, and an important part of this journey is to get work experience - which in Sarah’s case led directly to her first apprenticeship. 

Loving her new job at Tonks, and succeeding at it as a young, petite female - has inspired Sarah to want to create an environment that supports and encourages women into the trades. 

Carpentry is often considered a man's job, but Sarah believes that seeing other women succeed in the trades could make it a more accessible career path for young women. 

“My aunt is an electrician so the idea of being a woman in the trades was not unusual for me when I was growing up. I definitely believe that the more young girls see females in the trades, the more common it will become,” explains Sarah. 

“Just getting the word out there that I am working in construction as a young female, and that the team I work for embraces and encourages me, might help someone to see it as a viable option for themselves.” 

Sarah grew up in Lower Hutt, living with her grandparents and attending Sacred Heart College. She completed year 13 but knew that she didn’t want to spend more time ‘sitting in a classroom’. 

“I knew that I wanted to be doing something in the outdoors, and so when a WelTec advert popped up on my social media, I thought it sounded like a smart next step.” 

Sarah was supported through her course by the Tamaiti Whangai team at WelTec as part of her Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTTS) scholarship. 

“The scholarship is as much about covering the costs of study as it is about supporting students to be the best they can be,” says Hinemoa Priest, Kaiwhakahaere Māori, and Manager of the Tamaiti Whāngai team which supports the MPTT programme at both WelTec and Whitireia. 

“The team helps our learners with all manner of things - from getting a driver’s licence, sourcing equipment for their hands-on learning, and importantly providing wrap-around pastoral, cultural, and wellbeing support. 

“Through our network of employers, such as Tonks, we help students get work experience while they study so they can see how to apply themselves and their knowledge in a real-life environment, and then assist with securing an apprenticeship or employment at the end of their study. Sarah has been a wonderful example of the success of this.” 

“Having my course fees covered by the MPTT made a huge difference because it meant that I could concentrate on my studies without having to worry about how to cover my costs,” said Sarah. “I never would have expected to come away from tertiary study with a qualification, life skills, and no student debt.” 

Find out more about the Māori and Pacific Trades Training (MPTT) scholarship → 

MPTT recipients receive a wide range of support. The Tamaiti Whāngai team will support you with mentoring, goal setting, pastoral and cultural support, and you'll have the opportunity to get your drivers license, site safe and first aid certificates. 

Tonks Residential Director Kyle Tonks also studied at WelTec so was confident about hiring Sarah. 

Kyle says, “I reached out to WelTec at the end of 2019 to see if they had any quality candidates coming up, they sent Sarah to us and we haven’t looked back. WelTec does a great job of preparing apprentices, I never doubted Sarah could do the job, and I think her idea of supporting other women into construction is fantastic.” 

Although carpentry is a male-dominated industry Kyle doesn’t believe there are any reasons why women shouldn’t be more represented. 

“Sarah fits into the team well and gets her work done without complaint. Sometimes she can’t do some heavy lifting, but everyone has certain things they aren’t as good at and we just work around it,” said Kyle. 

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