Cindy Leong is proof it’s never too late to succeed, even if you leave school young with few options.
The 27-year-old New Plymouth woman who is of Whakatōhea and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent, said goodbye to high school “young and dumb” at 16, preferring to get a job and make money as a caregiver.
Almost 10 years later, Cindy was still caregiving but also pondering if that was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It was Cindy’s mum that spotted an advert for the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative, coordinated by Taranaki Futures. For 16 to 40 year olds, the scheme assists young Maori and Pasifika people gain qualifications, apprenticeships and employment in trades that are in demand in New Zealand. The programme brings together employers, trainers, students and their families to provide a seamless path to fulltime employment.
“I went from looking after people, to working with machines. I really, really like engineering,” says Cindy, whose involvement in the Trades Training scheme saw her gain trade qualifications from the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT). Her experience with the scheme has inspired her to study for a Diploma in Engineering (mechanical).
“The coordinators and tutors are so supportive. They put their heart and soul into their work. They weren’t just there for me but for everybody on the course. It was a real confidence boost for me,” says Cindy, who would like to work in the oil and gas industry.
“We are having a big shortage of engineers. If you are unsure what you want to do or you are like me and left school early, you can be involved in this scheme and get some good qualifications.”
Cindy says another great thing about the scheme is the opportunity to gradually build on your qualifications.
“I began studying at WITT doing ‘tertiary studies’, then Trade Skills level 1, then a Certificate in Mechanical Engineering level 2, then the Certificate in Engineering Technology level 4, before the NZ Diploma in Mechanical Engineering level 6.
“You don’t have to go to university to succeed.”
Read more about Cindy here.