Local school, local skills, local jobs – By Lynne Richardson

Posted on 2016-01-14 by W McD

An ongoing commitment to employ school-leavers from Tamaki College is providing a win-win-win situation for the school, local contractors and the Tamaki Regeneration Company.

Established by the Crown and Auckland Council in 2012 as the Tamaki Redevelopment Company (now trading and known as the Tamaki Regeneration Company), the TRC is leading a long-term programme of regeneration within the Tamaki area in Auckland’s east, comprising the suburbs of Glen Innes, Pt England and Panmure.

Initiatives include planning housing and infrastructure, and facilitating and coordinating the design and delivery of social and economic programmes to lift prosperity and well-being over the next 10–15 years. A critical aspect of the programme is to create more and better jobs within the community, and improve the education, learning and skills pathways through to employment.

To achieve this, the ‘Skills for Jobs’ project (which creates the pathways to employment) has been established – and the construction industry has a vital role to play. New, modern homes are being built – as previously reported in NZ Construction News – along with new community facilities.

Within the physical rebuild programme there are three major phases that are relevant to the Skills for Jobs project: the current partnership with Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) for the redevelopment of the Fenchurch neighbourhood; early catalyst projects which invoke the ‘Tamaki commitment’ to employing locals; and medium-term projects, with the aim of providing ongoing employment.


Tamaki College is the local secondary school, and its catchment includes all the areas currently under redevelopment by the TRC. The school is proud to have one of 23 trades academies that currently operate nationwide (there are seven in Auckland).

Trades academies are a government initiative which aims to keep young New Zealanders engaged in education for longer, and support secondary school students to gain National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 through practical learning opportunities relevant to vocational careers.

In 2015, there were 5250 places at the 23 trades academies, providing opportunities for students from more than 300 schools. In 2016, there will be 6190 places – an increase of 18% from 2015, and a tenfold increase since trades academies were first established in 2011.

The academies operate through a partnership between the school, tertiary institutions – in Tamaki College’s case, the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) and NZMA – industry training organisations and employers.


At Tamaki College, students in years 12 and 13 who are interested in a career in trades are able to combine study at the trades academy while working towards achieving NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3. Students must study maths and English, and then choose from four trades – automotive engineering, building and construction, catering and hospitality, and digital technology – plus one other subject from the curriculum.

Principal of Tamaki College (and a director of the TRC), Soana Pamaka, says their trades academy was established in 2012, shortly after the scheme was introduced. “The government was looking for potential ‘test case’ schools, and our college was already reasonably equipped with technical classrooms and workshops,” Mrs Pamaka says. “I spoke to my staff and they were really keen, so we volunteered.”

Mergran Naicker, director of the Tamaki College Trades Academy: “Students are more engaged in their learning – not just with the trades, but in core subjects like maths and English too”

Mergran Naicker, a teacher at the time, was appointed to lead the development of the Tamaki College Trades Academy, and is currently the director. He says a high level of investment was required by the school to upgrade the facilities and equipment, but today the school has some of the best-equipped classrooms in Auckland for teaching carpentry, metalwork and welding, and automotive engineering.

Mr Naicker is very supportive of the trades academy programme. “It gives the students a chance to learn something worthwhile – skills that will help them gain meaningful employment when they leave school. Without anything to interest them, many of these young people would simply drop out of the school system,” he says.


During a tour of the college, I meet with three students who are currently enrolled in the trades academy: Jeremiah Toloa Fakalaga (automotive engineering), Koloa Malolo and Meshaq Vekene (construction). They proudly display their current projects – for the construction students, a hand-crafted wooden bench seat which they will eventually take home for their families.

Other projects are on display too – some intricate metalwork sculptures and examples of carpentry and welding – and I’m taken through the automotive workshop that includes a hoist and the tools you would expect to see in a professional workshop. Outside is a pergola that is currently being deconstructed – the project was built by the trades academy students and was fully wired and plumbed in.

Through its association with MIT, academy students will spend one day a week at the MIT campus, using the trades facilities there and being taught by MIT lecturers, which helps to broaden their skills.

And it’s not just the senior students who benefit from the trades academy facilities – during my visit, I meet a classroom of year 7 and 8 students from a local school who visit for two hours a week and rotate through the trade courses over three semesters. Year 9, 10 and 11 students from the college also take the trades courses as part of their curriculum.


And the results speak for themselves. Since the trades academy was established at Tamaki College, NCEA pass rates have increased and attendance has improved.

These results are echoed nationwide. A recent Education Review Office report on trades academies found they had delivered “overwhelmingly positive outcomes” for students. The report, released in July, found the academies had improved the motivation, attendance, self-esteem and achievement rates of students who were at risk of disengaging from the system. It also found that students participating in academies were becoming more resilient and learning to manage their time and solve problems.

“Let’s be honest,” Mrs Pamaka says. “Most of our students are not going to go on to university, which is the traditional approach of most schools. A lot of our students are more interested in vocational pathways – and you can see this by how hard they work. They put a lot of effort into their projects, and they are very proud of the results.”

“The students are staying longer because they want to,” Mr Naicker adds. “They are more engaged in their learning – not just with the trades, but in core subjects like maths and English too – and they can see the opportunities that are available to them right on their doorstep. Their future potential employers are right here, rebuilding their community.”

A place for everything, and everything in its place – the well-equipped joinery workshop at the Tamaki College Trades Academy


Indeed, school students have already been involved with the rebuild. Last year, six students worked on the derelict Scout Hall on Fenchurch Street, which has been transformed into a community hall, helping to build a wrap-around timber deck on the exterior. The hall is on ground immediately adjacent to the school.

Other students gained work experience by helping to survey the grounds for the new Glenbrae early childhood education centre, and two school-leavers gained employment with Arrow International as apprentice site managers for the houses built on Apirana Avenue.

Another student was awarded a cadetship with international company Aurecon which will see him become a qualified engineer. Molimea Tuikolovatu was hand-picked for the cadetship after Aurecon signed an agreement with the TRC to create more career opportunities for Tamaki locals in June this year. Campbell McGregor, a senior engineer at Aurecon, says Molimea was an ideal candidate because he was eager to learn and make the most of the opportunity to gain skills and experience.

The benefits of the cadetship include fully funded part-time study towards a National Diploma in Engineering (Civil) at Unitec, and paid full-time employment when not studying. Mr McGregor says the initial thinking was that this would be a three-year commitment, but Aurecon has since decided to employ Molimea in a permanent role.


The TRC’s strategic framework for the Tamaki regeneration programme includes a commitment to education and skills development from early childhood education right through to continual learning for adults. The approach includes encouraging more job opportunities, clear career pathways, and access to regional employment opportunities.

“Over the next 10–15 years, the TRC will facilitate the development of over 7500 new homes in Tamaki,” says CEO John Holyoake. “That’s a lot of jobs for skilled construction workers, and we want to make sure local people get those jobs. In fact, we will be expecting our development partners to employ locally.

“Tamaki has a youthful population, with 30% of the local population under the age of 15. We will work with developers, training providers and schools and agencies to make sure Tamaki people, especially young people, have access to training and resources, get the skills they need and get into jobs.”

As well as supporting local businesses to provide work experience and offer employment for students and school-leavers, the TRC has developed a tailored career assistance programme – ‘Career Start’ – which is available free for local youth aged 17–24 years.

Mr Holyoake says the TRC is delighted to be partnering with Tamaki College and local contractors to provide jobs and work experience for people in Tamaki. “Sometimes, all a person needs is the opportunity to prove themselves, and employers are happy to take those workers on long term if they can.”

To date, the TRC estimates that 30 local people and school-leavers have been directly employed in construction jobs through the Tamaki regeneration programme.

Lynne Richardson, editor of New Zealand Construction News and FTD - Supply Chain Management Magazine