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Ara | Te Pūkenga carpentry apprentice takes out national award

Managed apprentice tutors delighted with Alex Erickson’s success at NZ Certified Builders event

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It’d be pretty hard to concentrate on work when you’ve spent the weekend winning the national final of the NZCB Apprentice Challenge Sponsored by ITM, but Alex Erickson was straight back on the tools having to do just that.

However, he admitted he “didn’t get a lot done” for Steve Brown Builders Ltd on Monday amid workmate banter, his phone “blowing up” and preparing to do a primetime TV interview. Facebook

After taking out the regionals in April, Erickson has been crowned New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) Apprentice Challenge 2023 winner, scooping a $10,000 ITM sponsored prize and the coveted Ken Read memorial trophy.

He said the event was a blast and he went into it well prepared – other than having an acceptance speech ready.

“It was always going to be a surprise as I was up against the best of the best,” Erickson said of the win. “It’s huge. The sort of opportunities that could come from this and the recognition for the work I am doing is immense. I guess it shows if you put in the hours, you can get something out of it.”

Erickson’s Carpentry Managed Apprentice tutors from Ara | Te Pukenga, who oversee his progress towards becoming signed off with site visits and running day-release programmes, say he’s a top student.

“Alex is an absolute all-rounder,” said Ron Bedyn who was among the team from Ara watching on at the NZCB conference.  “He’s skilled, focussed, forward thinking and ready to put the work in but keen on a laugh too,” he said. He also noted that completing worksite hours while keeping his electronic diary up to date and providing evidence of tasks completed all took effort.

With Ara learners taking out all three placings in the regional event, Bedyn added it was great to see them performing well.

“There’s no doubt our achievement rates are high with our course-completion figures around 95 percent,” he said. “But for us it’s also about building relationships between the student, employer and industry partners such as NZCB. It all helps them develop skills and knowledge as well as contacts in the business as they get themselves established.”

There were plenty of industry eyes on the competitors in the Apprentice Challenge event. Each of the 21 regional finalists had to submit a CV and portfolio before completing a two-hour written assessment, an interview, a practical test and a speech in front of conference delegates.

“Every year the calibre goes up,” NZCB Industry Pathways and Apprenticeship Manager Nick Matthews said.  “But the judges’ all said Alex was a standout from the start across all assessment areas and disciplines.”

Matthews said with 850 delegates at the conference, along with a full expo, there was also plenty of time for networking – allowing apprentices the chance to see a side of the industry they wouldn’t normally get to see.

“They get focussed on learning their trade but at the conference they can see a lot more about the business from an employer perspective,” he said, adding that NZCB provides ongoing support and resources for trade-qualified builders as they progress through their career.

Erickson, who did a one-year, Pre-Trades course at Ara and has also completed a hobby furniture making course on campus, said he plans to put his winnings towards some new gear which he could use after hours “on a few projects”.

“The tools we use in the business don’t come cheap so this will provide the chance to get something a bit higher spec which is really nice,” he said.

Who knows what this top student will turn out with a “decent drop-saw and quality nail-firing gun” on his shopping list.

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