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Apprentice is building up to national event

A Wairarapa building apprentice has hammered the competition in the regional heat of the annual New Zealand Certified Builders [NZCB] challenge, and his next step is to nail the nationals.

Last Saturday, apprentices participating in the regional contest were given eight hours to build a picnic table using specific design plans that met minimum safety standards.

An expert judge panel assessed the apprentices’ picnic tables, focusing on technical aspects such as the quality of workmanship, measuring, cutting, and assembly, as well as essential skills like their ability to use detailed plans and exercise workplace safety while against the clock.

Reuben Smith-Beech, 21 – an apprentice with Thistle Building Company – received the top score overall, won a $500 ITM gift voucher, and qualified for the national final.

He said he entered the competition – after being prodded to do so by company owner Simon Griffith – to get out of his comfort zone and experience something new.

“I would recommend anyone who can do it to give it a go,” he said.

Smith-Beech’s passion for the building industry started at 18 while at a summer holiday job where he landscaped and worked on outdoor building projects.

He said he enjoyed the physical work and craftsmanship so much that he pulled out of university a few weeks before he was due to start.

Although the national final will be “full-on,” there were plenty of things to look forward to, Smith-Beech said.

NZCB industry pathways and apprenticeship manager Nick Matthews said the regional competition attracted an outstanding lineup of skilled carpentry apprentices.

“It’s really encouraging for the building sector to see the talent and motivation displayed by the next generation of Kiwi builders at this year’s Apprentice Challenge,” he said.

“It’s a great way to celebrate those excelling in their work while recognising the importance of supporting those starting out in the industry.

“We can’t wait to see them compete at this year’s national final.”

NZCB actively encourages member builders to take on apprentices as part of its commitment to fostering the next generation of skilled builders.

The organisation recently launched the NZCB Apprentice Network, which is designed to offer comprehensive support for both apprentices and their employers alongside broader professional development and health and wellbeing.

“The future of our industry relies on a strong pipeline of trade-qualified, capable builders, but unfortunately, we see many apprentices leaving before they get their qualifications,” Matthews said.

“Initiatives like the Apprentice Network and the Apprentice Challenge are just some of the ways that we’re trying to ensure that apprentices get the additional support they need to finish their apprenticeships and go on to work in the industry.”

The picnic tables from the Saturday build will be sold to fund raise for the NZCB Apprentice Trust, which is designed to support members of the Apprentice Network scholarships and grants.

Smith-Beech will compete against 19 other regional winners across New Zealand for the Ken Read Memorial Trophy and prizes worth $50,000.

The national final will be held at the NZCB National Conference and Expo in Wellington on June 21 and 22.

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