Resene Construction Systems has just announced its first female national Apprentice of the Year – and she just happens to come from Whakatāne.
Azure Kutia snatched the crown from a male-dominated field in a male-dominated industry and wants to share the accolade in the hope more women seek out apprenticeships within the construction and infrastructure field.
Kutia is two years into her plastering apprenticeship, one she ditched a science degree at Canterbury University for.
"My uncles had a plastering business in Christchurch and had a lot of work on," Kutia said.
"They asked if I would like to lend a hand between semesters – and I never went back to university."
Now based in Whakatāne, Kutia's uncle JB Sim had not only kept her on, he had also employed her sister Cherize who was also doing an apprenticeship.
Another sister Keziah also worked for Sim and, according to Kutia, was exceptional on the tools from the very start.
"We're probably quite lucky as I know there are a lot of business owners who don't want female apprentices," Kutia said.
"They just point blank refuse to take them on."
However, Sim said although women, on occasion, may not be as strong, they are better in other aspects of the trade.
"Men, especially the younger ones, charge ahead at the task at hand," Sim said.
"Women take the time to assess the job as a whole and then work out how they're going to systematically complete it."
Kutia said she finds job satisfaction one of the best parts of the role.
"Taking in the finished product when you've plastered a house is awesome, it's also cool to drive past and show friends and family what you've done."
To win the Resene national Apprentice of the Year title, Kutia had to be first nominated by her BCITO rep and her boss.
Once nominated, she had to go through an interview process and then complete a three-hour test in front of judges.
"During the test you do different finishes, including using a type of plaster that may have only come out that year and that you haven't worked with at all. There were a few products I hadn't worked with before but the judge seemed happy with what I did."
Sim got the text announcing the win and said he couldn't be more proud of his niece.
"It's not just great she won, it's even better because of who she is," he laughed.
"I am very proud of her."
Kutia said working for her uncle probably gave her and her sister a bit of an advantage in that they never were bullied or treated any differently on site.
"At a time when they are screaming out for tradies, only 4 per cent of apprentices are women. But yet many employers still refuse to look at taking on a female apprentice.
"Not only do I encourage any woman out there wanting to apply for a trade apprenticeship to give it a go, I also challenge business owners and employers to consider welcoming a woman to the mix."