Paulo Tonga always wanted to become a builder. “My grandad owned a joinery factory and he was my role model. I always wanted to be like him,” says Paulo.
The 19-year-old is the fourth of seven children. His father is from Tonga and his mother from Tokelau. The family travelled a fair bit before settling in New Zealand. When Paulo was two years old, the family relocated from Australia to Auckland. Six years later they moved to Napier.
After he finished school at William Colenso College, he decided to turn his passion for carpentry into something for life.
“I enrolled at EIT because I knew that the courses would be hands-on.” The NZ Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Carpentry) was exactly what he was looking for.
While studying at EIT, Paulo worked part-time at McDonalds to support his family. “I often worked weekends and extra hours to earn more money,” he says.
Lee Kershaw remembers Paulo’s outstanding can-do-attitude. Lee is coordinating the government funded Te Ara o Tākitimu Scholarship which supports Māori and Pasifika people into trade training programmes. These include cookery, hospitality, primary industries, hairdressing, health and commercial driving too. Paulo had been one of the recipients.
”We focus on the student’s transition from pre-trade training into the workforce,” explains Lee. Lee and his team are keen to raise aspirations in people and empower them. The scholarship covers all fees and gives the student access to financial learning support, pastoral care and a work broker.
Paulo remembers the passion of his tutors willing to pass on their knowledge. “They were so professional and engaging.” November last year, Paulo completed his certificate and was hired as an apprentice at Tim’s Construction.
“One of the fellow students knew the boss and he put my name forward.” Also, interestingly enough, his foreman, Freddy Jackson had completed the same programme at EIT ten years ago.
“While renovating old houses I learn something new every day. It’s amazing to see that I can create something new, that I build a house where once there was just a lot of green grass or rubble.”
At the end of the year Paulo and his uncle will travel together to Tokelau. Being such a remote island, it will take days to get there. Tokelau however, is where Paulo is planning to make his dream come true, one for his family. “One day I will build a house for my mum there to retire,” says Paulo.