Light fabrication apprentice is ‘loving every day’

Azaria Weston (Ngāruahine), a light fabrication apprentice at Longveld, Waikato says she loves being ‘out of her comfort zone and growing like crazy’. Here, she shares her story and her future aspirations.

I went to an all-girls school and no one like me ever came to talk to us, I didn’t even know what mechanical engineering was. I left school at 16, and tried a couple of training courses, and then we got taken to a Trades Expo, and a guy from a local company was so enthusiastic. He told us there was no reason a woman couldn’t do the work and invited us to go and visit – I ended up doing a three-month work experience placement and loved it. There were three other women there and I enjoyed working with them – we still keep in touch today.

I moved to Hamilton and did a mechanical engineering level 2 course, then level 3. The tutor was really motivating and believed that women can do anything – in fact, he told us that women are especially good at lots of parts of the work because they have an eye for detail. I’d previously studied and completed both personal training and barista courses too, so was able to use these qualifications to bring in money while I studied.

I was lucky to get taken on at Longveld through a Work and Income New Zealand Incentive scheme “Mana in Mahi” which helped with funds for my training, and now I’ve done two years of my apprenticeship and I’m loving every day.

Keeping up with the guys at work is important to me – they are men,  physically, naturally more fit, so you have to work a bit smarter. You don’t have to pick up ten things on your shoulder at once, you can do two at a time, and your back’s not sore the next morning.

Another thing is, men are more afraid to ask for help – but I’m always thinking about the next step, and who can I ask. It’s okay to say, “hey, I don’t know.”

In our workplace there’s plenty of diversity. We’re a close workplace and I enjoy it. Lots have been here over five years, and the office keeps it really transparent. If there’s an opening and job roles come up, [the owners] always look internally first, they say, anyone can apply.

I will definitely keep doing courses once I finish my level 4. Knowledge is power. I love to be constantly learning. And also teaching others: by sharing, you understand it better yourself and you learn different tips too. I’d like to be a trainer.

Pictured: Azaria Weston (Ngāruahine) is a mechanical engineering apprentice at Longveld, Waikato.