Ma’aola Fiupepe is starting an exciting new chapter; she has just arrived in New Zealand from Samoa to start using her Ara scholarship for the Centre of Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL), so that in a year’s time she will have a New Zealand carpentry qualification.

She is the first female carpenter from the Pacific Trades Partnership (PTP), facilitated by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which contracted Ara Institute of Canterbury to oversee skills assessments of tradespeople in the Pacific Islands.

This PTP initiative follows off the back of an initial assessment pilot, which was trialled in 2016, to bring Pacific carpenters to New Zealand to assist with the Canterbury rebuild. There have been 42 job offers from the Pacific Trades Partnership to date for workers to come to New Zealand.

Ma’aola was officially welcomed to Ara last week on Friday 8 February at the Trades campus in Woolston, where a lunch was held to celebrate her achievement in being the first female carpenter.

The visit began with a tour of the campus followed by an official welcome with speeches from Matt Hoskin, Migrant Attraction Manager from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT); Janice McNab, General Manager at Tradestaff; Dave Dixon, Manager of CAPL at Ara; and the Samoan High Commissioner, His Excellency Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlan.

By going through the CAPL assessment process, Ma’aola’s work experience will be credited towards the New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry. Ma’aola’s employer Tradestaff have also awarded her the Sally Macfarlane Legacy Scholarship for Pacific Women in Trades and are supporting her with equipment, tools, additional training costs and pastoral care.

Ma’aola started working as a carpenter in 2013, completed her Certificate III in Carpentry at the APTC in Samoa, and is now looking forward to gaining a New Zealand qualification and further experience.

“In Samoa it’s different from here. Sometimes we use the wrong tools because we don’t have the money to buy tools. But I’m looking forward to using the correct tools and a wider range here,” Ma’aola says.

Dave Dixon said he is pleased to see Ma’aola starting a whole new learning journey.

“We’re proud to be involved. It’s absolutely brilliant to have the first female carpenter coming from the Pacific Trades Partnership in Samoa.”

H.E. Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlan said, “In Samoa carpentry and trades are mainly for the boys. Parents don’t encourage their girls to do that. But Ma’aola and other young women are going outside the box. They’ve decided that if the boys can do it, they can do it.”

He encouraged Ma’aola to look into other trades and developing management skills while she’s in New Zealand so that one day she might be able to start her own business.

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