When John Kotoisuva knocked on the door of Metal Skills Ltd in East Tamaki, Factory Manager Phillip Ward was more than interested.

“From past experience, hiring young people wasn’t that successful overall,” says Phillip.

“For many of them it was the first job and the first chance to earn some money. But that opportunity was too often wasted and it wouldn’t be long before some wouldn’t even turn up for work. So when John came along and told me about the trade programmes Oceania Careers Academy was running, it seemed like a great idea for us.”

What John proposed involved mentoring and pastoral care, which ensured youth received the support they needed to stick with their studies and to make the most of the opportunity for work experience that they’ve been given.

For Phillip, it sounded like a no-brainer. The first student he trialled from the Academy was Joe Nuku. Joe started as a General Hand and now works fulltime as an apprentice at Metal Skills. “Joe shone right from the start,” says Phillip. “He knew he was starting from the bottom where you get most of the crap jobs. If you can survive that and still be keen, you’re on your way.”

One of the biggest drawcards OCA offers is they can provide students who have the Unit Standards required that are directly relevant to an apprenticeship.

“They’ve got their Year 1 and 2s, and some of them even have their Year 3s. For us it means they’re able to hit the ground running. Because they’ve already done the work, some can even skip the block courses, which can be quite expensive. Most of the time I get a pile of CVs to look at, but there’s no relevant qualifications among them. With OCA it’s different.”

Phillip says a huge advantage OCA has for its students is the ability to begin their path to a trade at a younger age compared to others competing for a job.

“At most companies, you’ll get a 22-year-old coming off the street with little or no relevant qualifications. They’re just starting on their path,” he says.

“Because OCA is picking them up at secondary school, by the time they’re 22 or 23 they’ll have their trade certificates, done 8-10,000 hours at least and be set for life. They’ve got skills and qualifications which they can take anywhere in the world. Of course, Metal Skills would like to keep the best.”

Phillip Ward’s own son Jacob is one of the many promising OCA apprentices now working at Metal Skills. The irony is Jacob joined OCA from school without Phillip knowing.

“He came home one day and said, ‘Dad, I’ve joined this, what do you think?’ I told Jacob we were part of it,” recalls Phillip, with a laugh.

“He had learning difficulties right from when he started schooling, but it wasn’t until he went to secondary school it was discovered that he had dyslexia. Getting into the trades is huge for him. And I’m sure there are plenty of other young promising men in the same boat.”

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