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Steel Construction Industry Serious About Nurturing Future Talent

The structural steel industry recently gathered in Queenstown to salute the outstanding new blood in the industry with the Apprentice of the Year and Young Achiever of the Year awards.

The awards are a nod to the increasing number of talented workers emerging in the structural steel industry, and celebrate those whose skills, drive and willingness to learn has helped them to achieve outstanding outcomes. They recognise well-rounded people who demonstrate not only talent and a good attitude, but display traits important to the industry – commitment, innovation and agility.

The awards also reflect the industry’s commitment to upskilling young members of the trade and investing in the future of the local structural steel industry, which is crucial given the impact of COVID-19 on New Zealand-grown capability.

“As a well-established industry we have a responsibility to ensure we pass on our skills and experience to the next generation of structural steel specialists to safeguard the future of the sector and support our economic recovery,” says Mr Van Schaijik.

“Of the total workforce employed by local structural steel contractors, 9.1 percent are in a training programme, and 69 percent of structural steel contractors employ an average of four apprentices. So it’s fantastic to see SCNZ’s Apprentice of the Year and Young Achiever of the Year awards gather momentum, year on year. Our industry should be proud of its commitment to fostering our bright, young talent.”

Judging the awards was made difficult by the high standard of each of the finalists, who are all deserving of an accolade. The judges noted that the calibre of people coming through points to a great future for the industry.

The 2020 winners and finalists are:

Apprentice of the Year Winner: Joshua Jackson, Global Engineering

Global Engineering Business Development Manager Will Mahon says that Joshua is a great asset to the business thanks to his constant drive to do the best job he can.

“Joshua has risen to the challenge with some complex and architecturally demanding projects and has successfully come up with smart ways to apply his engineering knowledge,” says Will.

Joshua credits his success to being surrounded by highly skilled and committed mentors in the workshop. Now he’s keen to pay it forward, sharing his knowledge with the new apprentices.

Apprentice of the Year finalists:

  • Archie Morales, John Jones Steel
  • Gavin Neal Menzies, Red Steel
  • Leighton Dewar, John Jones Steel
  • Micah Swindells, Petone Engineering

Young Achiever of the Year Winner: Kieran Houssenloge, Petone Engineering

Kieran joined Petone Engineering as a fabricator in 2018, and Managing Director Chris Molenaar says he turned out to be a particularly good one.

“It was clear early on that Kieran had leadership skills and he quickly became the workshop supervisor without needing a formal title. He started organising the work as it came through the shop and the fabrication team was happy to do as he instructed,” says Chris.

One standout attribute is Kieran's willingness to embrace change, improvements and innovative technology. “It’s an asset to anyone in a rapidly growing company,” says Chris. “He is a quick learner and takes responsibility for his own personal development.”

One of Kieran's early challenges was successfully managing the fabrication of 30 K-frames that Petone Engineering made for the Chinese Embassy in Wellington.

“At the time we had a small shop and the logistics of handling the steel in a small area was his greatest challenge. and we had just added two new fabricators to our team so Kieran was training the new staff at the same time,” says Chris.

“Kieran leads by example and sets high standards for his team. With his willingness to learn and his proactive approach to personal development, there is no ceiling to limit where he could go in this industry.”

Young Achiever of the Year finalists:

  • Blair Neverman, Global Engineering
  • Luke O’Brien, Steel Pencil
  • Petrus Barkowitz, Waikato Steel Fabricators

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