Liam Short is certainly making the most of his opportunity.
The 16-year-old New Plymouth Boys’ High School student is this year taking part in the Taranaki Futures and WITT Build a Bach programme, where students get practical experience in the trade before going on to careers in the building industry.
He spends four days a week at WITT, learning skills and building a two-bedroom house under the tutelage of qualified builder Chris Gibson, and the other day on work experience at long-time Build a Bach supporter Pepper Construction.
“I always wanted to be a builder,” says Liam. “I like getting out in the fresh air and doing the practical stuff. That’s why this course has been really good – being able to learn some skills of the trade before going out and getting a job.”
But Liam’s done more than just go through the motions of course work. As Pepper Construction managing director Andrew Pepper explains, Liam’s enthusiasm for the job has gone beyond what was expected.
“Liam’s got a great attitude and it showed when he came, of his own volition, and worked over the school holidays,” Andrew says. “There was no pushing, he just came and did it. We were really impressed.”
Pepper Construction and other building businesses in Taranaki have been staunchly behind the Build a Bach programme since it began in 2012. They have offered work experience placements and apprenticeships.
“We realise that we need more young people in our industry, particularly with the housing shortage we have at the moment,” Andrew says. “We support the whole ethos of the programme and giving young people opportunities.”
During his weekly work experience at Pepper Construction, Liam does general building duties such as cladding and flooring, and some of the ‘grunt work’, such as cleaning and maintenance.
Andrew says the Build a Bach programme has clear benefits over other pre-training schemes.
“It definitely gives them an advantage having done practical work in a supervised training environment. Employers like the fact they have some of the basic skills before they start on the job.”
Liam hopes that practical training will hold him in good stead when he looks to begin his building career at the end of the year. He is targeting an apprenticeship and, maybe, one day starting up his own company.
As Build a Bach tutor Chris Gibson says, having goals, aspirations and determination to succeed are as important at this early stage as having the practical skills.
“I get more of a kick out of building these kids than building the house,” he says.
Thank you to generous Build a Bach Project Partners: