Foxton man Michael Muaguitutia has taken out Manawatu's New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) Apprentice Challenge.
As the regional winner, Michael takes home a Makita power tool, ITM-branded merchandise, and will represent Manawatu at the final, to be held in Rotorua later this month.
Michael, 21, was born in Auckland, but at the age of 17 moved to Foxton to live with his uncle and pursue a rugby career. Not long after moving, Michael landed a building apprenticeship with Caldow Builders, and hasn't looked back.
He says he wouldn't move back to Auckland in a hurry. Four years on with just over a year to go until he's a qualified builder, Michael dreams of building his own home and contracting for himself.
"I was always a hands-on person, and I couldn't sit behind a desk. This was the first trade I jumped into," he said.
"I like that you're never doing the same thing, every day is always different. You start out, and you get to see the finished product. It gives you a sense of accomplishment." Michael entered the competition reluctantly, forced into it by his tutor and boss.
"They thought I'd do good and it worked out," he said. "I was quite rapt with winning. I was up against another guy who was residential, and I do commercial, but the challenge was residential style, so I was quite happy when I won."
"At the end when we stopped and looked at each other's work I knew, but I was still surprised when they called my name."
Three other apprentices from the Manawatu and Taranaki regions competed at the event. Apprentices had just eight hours to create a children's castle playhouse from detailed construction plans, featuring a turret and working drawbridge.
A panel of experts judged each playhouse on workmanship, measuring, cutting and assembly, with Michael's playhouse receiving the highest overall score.
In May Michael will compete against 19 other regional winners from around the country for the national title, and a prize pack valued at over $50,000. NZCB Chief Executive Grant Florence was impressed with the talent on show at the event.
"Top-quality apprentices are critical for the future of New Zealand's growing building industry. Fostering and encouraging young talent is a responsibility NZCB takes seriously," he said.
"We encourage our member builders to take on apprentices, as it creates a pathway into the industry and ensures the sector can meet the increasing demand for trade-qualified, highly-skilled and well-rounded building professionals."