Awesome Construction Career for Young Women

October 27, 2021

Piritahi’s Lauren Fifita, Mitesh Dhanji and Estah Sefo

Awesome Construction Career for Young Women Awesome Construction Career for Young Women

Estah Sefo and Lauren Fifita never thought they’d move into the construction industry. That all changed when they found out about the unexpected career path following a visit to Tāmaki Jobs & Skills Hub. The pair are now with land development company Piritahi as their youngest ever female construction employees.

“It’s pretty cool” says Lauren. “We get to work in all different areas on this site so we learn new things every day. This wasn’t our career plan but we’re happy we ended up here. Even though we are young, everyone is really supportive and helps us to learn every day.”

The 18-year-olds first started thinking about work at the end of last year as they were finishing school. “We didn’t really know what we wanted to do,” says Estah. “Cathy, our school guidance counsellor at Tāmaki College suggested we go to the Tāmaki Jobs & Skills Hub. We thought maybe we’d like to work in picking and packing.”

But Alice Taupau, manager at the hub, had a different suggestion. “They were unsure about what they wanted to do so I invited them to join our four-day construction readiness programme for local Year 13 students. I thought that might be good, as it explained all the different trades, apprenticeship pathways, and then they got to have speed interviews with selected employers, one of which was Piritahi. The team were very impressed and invited them to their site for a visit, and then job interviews.”

Everything was going well and the girls were excited about the career path ahead but their parents had some doubts about the plan. “When Piritahi invited us for interviews we asked our parents, and they said no. I think they were worried about it not being a good environment for us,” says Lauren. “We thought we’d have to find something else.”

Alice offered to speak to their parents and soon saw they were not keen on having their daughters get into what they viewed as unsuitable work for young women. “One of their Dads had been in civil construction and said it was too hard. So, I called their mothers and invited them to the hub for a one-on-one chat,” says Alice. “I listened to them express their reservations, let them know I completely understood how they felt and then explained the support that we would wrap around their daughters if they wanted to pursue this career.

I explained the potential opportunities and the supportive employer we were placing them with. Eventually they agreed to allow their daughters to attend the interview.” And it’s been all go, ever since.

The young women impressed the panel and before they knew it were signed up employees of Piritahi, going into work at the Mt Roskill site every day in their hi-vis gear. Even better, they’ve now been joined by another young Tāmaki woman too. Ofa Nualona, a close friend of Lauren and Estah, heard how well her mates were doing at Piritahi and wanted in. “When she saw how settled and happy they were, she thought it would be awesome if she could join them and they could learn, grow and support each other. It’s been so great they have all ended up working together” says Alice.

“It’s been great for us as a company too” says Mitesh Dhanji, Piritahi resourcing and recruitment manager. “There’s always a drive to get more women into the industry at all levels, so having Estah, Lauren and Ofa with us is amazing. We were honest with them about what the job entailed and explained that if they turned up on time and worked hard with the right attitude there was so much scope for them to progress to any area that interested them. They’ve really showed how keen they are so far.”

And as for the reality of working in construction and land development every day? The young women love it “It’s nice working with our friends and it’s good doing physical work. Our other friends and extended family are often a bit shocked when we tell them what we do,” says Lauren. “But they are always interested when they hear how much we enjoy it.”

JOBS & SKILLS HUB Email: Phone: 0800 JOB HUB from Monday to Friday, 9am-3pm. Our office at 54 Mayfair Place, Glen Innes is currently closed.