A chance to get out of her comfort zone is what attracted Siutiti Kauvaka to the Certificate in Applied Technology's carpentry programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and it turned out to be much better than she expected.
"I had hoped to learn what it's actually like to build, but I didn’t expect to look at an actual house at the end, knowing that we - our little group - built that. It was a good feeling."
Before enrolling in the programme, Siutiti was 22, working shifts at a taxi company call centre and more than ready to move on and try something different.
"I wanted to try out carpentry because I liked the thought of being able to do things on my own rather than relying on someone else to fix something for me," she says.
"Even knowing the basics of building a house was exciting for me. I loved it."
Along with learning about the different aspects of the construction industry, the practical nature of the course provided its own challenges.
Working at heights, for example, was initially an issue for her, but as her experience grew, moving from one scaffold to the next became second nature.
The mathematics of building was also a challenge.
"Sometimes it was difficult getting the calculations and measurements correct, but in order to learn and understand you’ve got to get it wrong to get it right," she says.
"Getting used to the power tools was something too. I had my good and bad days but one thing I realised is that hard work pays off.
Siutiti is currently using the knowledge she learned on the course as a customer services representative for Downer, a provider of construction and technology-based services, including telecommunications.
"I look after the phone and broadband connections and the majority of those houses are new builds," she says.
"I like to use what I've learned to advise our technicians about construction processes and building sites, especially when the job needs to go back to a developer or construction manager."
In the future, Siutiti would like to build a house in her homeland of Tonga, but first she wants to complete the last of the construction management papers, a prospect that would not have been possible without her carpentry training.
"The support given by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, from the beginning right to the end, gives you strength and confidence," she says.
"I would highly recommend this to others."