Tongan student Steve Mafi always knew he wanted to be a builder. Practical-minded and good with his hands, Steve has dreamed of working in construction since he was a very young boy. And at the age of 17, Steve is on the cusp of achieving his dream thanks to OCA’s Trades at School Programme. An innovative, one-year programme aimed at year 12 and 13 students, Trades at School offers a bridge between school and work for those kids that are interested in the trades as a career. Steve Mafi signed up for the programme while still a student at De La Salle College in Mangere. In 2018 Steve majored in building and construction and completed standards towards his qualification as well as towards NCEA Level 3.

‘The course was a lot of work but was also enjoyable and taught me a lot,’ says Steve. ‘As well as learning building and construction skills, I got my site safe certificate and I also found out useful things around time management and working in a team – practical stuff that wasn’t really covered at school.’

However, it’s the mentoring and support that OCA provides which really sets the programme apart. In fact, it’s been integral to the success of numerous students just like Steve. The mentorship extends to encouraging relationships with other like-minded students. During the school holidays, for example, students are encouraged to take part in group activities with their peers and mentors including outdoor camps, community projects and talks from inspirational business people. The idea is to build lasting, mutually supportive relationships. OCA has a strong belief in walking and working alongside students and supporting them to succeed.

And Steve certainly has succeeded. He’s just signed an apprenticeship contract with his work experience employer and if his determination is anything to go by, Steve has a bright future ahead of him. ‘This is my future – I’m going somewhere and it means a lot to me,’ Steve proudly proclaims.
‘Once you are qualified you can start a business or become a site manager like I want to. It gives you options.’
There’s no doubt that the Trades at School programme open doors – whether it’s further vocational-based study, training courses and qualifications, or like Steve, directly into paid employment.

‘My goal is to save up enough money for a house,’ advises Steve. ‘I might buy or build my own. So long as there is money in the bank, I’m all sweet.’

Steve has plenty of encouragement for anyone who may be thinking of following a similar path to his.
‘Go hard,’ he says. ‘If you really put your mind to it you’ll get there. There’s a big need in the building industry. It’s a great environment to work in and its lots of fun.’ ‘You can make your way up with the right mind set and the help of OCA.’

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