Three or four years from now, 17-year-old Jasmine Witika could be earning up to $75,000 a year. At present, she does not have a full-time job.

Jasmine's future and potential earnings have been highlighted by her selection as one of 10 winners of the #BuildAKL competition. The prize? Paid work experience and training at Independent Traffic Control (usually known as iTraffic) - the Auckland-based contractor which manages traffic and other projects up and down New Zealand, including Christchurch, Hamilton as well as Auckland in the busy construction and infrastructure industry.

It's so busy, the sector is crying out for staff. Auckland is growing fast but needs 32,000 more skilled people to work in the industry by 2018. The city is expected to spend over $18 billion in the next decade on key capital projects and needs 400,000 more dwellings over the next 25 years.

At the other end of this spectrum are the 23,000 15-24-year-old Aucklanders currently not in education, employment or training and 20,000 more who leave school every year ready for their next step.

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#BuildAKL is designed to help 4000 young people into the construction and infrastructure sector, led by the industry and facilitated by Auckland Council-controlled Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development agency (ATEED). This is being documented on www.facebook.com/buildAKL/.

Jasmine and nine other young Aucklanders are currently undergoing work experience with different employers - and are using social media to tell others what they are doing. It is a social media 'call to arms', attempting to bring together youth and the industry to solve each other's problems.

There are no guarantees of full-time work but, if Jasmine's beginnings are any guide, there could be a future there for her and many other youngsters.

Jasmine, of Orakei, left Tamaki College last year with only a vague idea of what she might do for a job. "I had quite an interest in construction," she says. "My brother Eric works in construction and he is always coming home and talking about his job. He likes it - and that got me interested."

iTraffic are a company of about 120 people involved in some of the biggest projects around Auckland and Christchurch, in particular. They contract to the likes of Fulton Hogan, Fletchers, Chorus, Watercare and others - anyone who has to rip up roads for the provision of infrastructure and services and who have community, health, safety and legal requirements to meet.

They formulate and apply traffic management plans to keep things moving as best possible while such major projects proceed. They are involved, for example, in the widening of the western motorway at Lincoln Road and the building of the city rail link in downtown Auckland.

"We execute a consensual agreement from Auckland Transport and the Council which outlines how the project must be done, how the traffic must be handled, how many people and how many cones are required," says iTraffic's business development and recruitment manager Junior Chan-Tung.

Aucklanders don't need to be told their city is in the grip of a major infrastructural revamp - there seem to be road works, traffic cones and increased traffic congestion almost everywhere.

That is where the opportunity lies for Jasmine and others like her.

"In three or four years' time, she could be earning $75,000 a year," says Chan-Tung. "This is an amazingly busy time and busy industry and her hourly rate will go up as she gains more experience; it is so busy she could do extra hours - up to a total of 50 or 60 a week - and earn some really good money.

"As they progress up the ladder, we help steer them through three pay levels and gain extra knowledge - like gaining a truck licence and first-aid knowledge - the sort of thing required to go to the next level.

"This is an industry where we don't get people walking in off the street with experience.
Our minimum requirement is a driver's licence, transport and attitude. We are not asking for a degree.

"If they have their own transport, it is a big plus and it can say a lot about the young person. What we've found if they don't have transport or a licence is that they usually say, 'Mum and dad can drop me'. Well, starting at 6.30am and 7am every day is a big ask for mum and dad - and these guys start arriving late and then crying off altogether; it just becomes too much for them.

"What I really like about Jasmine is her attitude; I love it - she'll do what it takes, she relates to people and she is quick to learn."

Jasmine herself says she is enjoying learning; she wants to know more about traffic management plans and control. At a project site in Otara, her work experience has seen her set up special road signs designed to inform motorists and minimise delays.

"It's been interesting finding out about the signs, what they say and how you set them up and position them. It's all about good communication."

Auckland motorists can be a testy bunch, especially when there are a lot of road works, but Jasmine says good communication nips that in the bud.

Talking about buds, there is a long way to go in Jasmine's education but #BuildAKL might just have helped a budding career.

Follow Jasmine and other winners on the BuildAKL Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/buildAKL and find out more about the campaign at www.buildakl.co.nz.