Apprentice builder Krystine Vincent knew she was on the right career path when she helped build a community house last year as part of her carpentry course at UCOL Horowhenua.
Vincent had developed an interest in building at college, but struggled to get into the industry once she left school because of lack of experience.
She took a gap year, then enrolled in the NZ Certificate in Construction Trade Skills at UCOL in January 2020, under the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) training initiative.
The certificate course was fees-free for Vincent, as a MPTT student, and she also received help with travel costs as well as a pair of steel-cap work boots.
"Through the carpentry course itself, [all the students] got a tool belt, hammer, chisel, ruler, and all of the small things that we needed," Vincent said.
Between January and March 2020, the students worked on small projects, such as making tool boxes, to get used to using the machinery they would be working with when the house build started.
Then on March 25, Zealand went into a country-wide lockdown, which meant UCOL's courses had to go online.
"We had theory work to do online while we couldn't be on-site, but it was quite hard when we hadn't had the practical experience yet," Vincent said.
The course was back on-site in early June, which meant the community house build was started in winter.
Vincent said: "That was a reality check for some of the students [but] I'd already been doing work placement on Thursdays and Fridays [for New Level Solutions in Levin] so had been out in all weathers."
Working two jobs (she was also doing night shift hours at Levin New World) as well as being on course three days a week was a struggle at times, so Vincent was grateful for the support she received from UCOL's MPTT coordinator/Kaituhono Mahi Kaiarataki.
"The extra mentor support, coming in [to course] once a month to check in [with me] really helped with my perseverance."
Vincent encouraged other young people to check out UCOL's construction programmes for themselves, especially if they like their learning to be practical and hands-on.
"When building the community house, we did everything from framing, to cladding, to the windows and doors ... [the theory] was just writing about what we'd done."
Vincent graduated from UCOL in March this year, and is now doing a fulltime apprenticeship with Palmerston North-based EBL Homes.