Changing trades

September 9, 2022

Many school leavers are only aware of the ‘usual suspect’ trades they can pursue – trades such as electricians, engineers, builders, hairdressers and plumbers. However there are more than 2,000 vocational education and training programmes, including apprenticeships, available in New Zealand – Fire Detection and Alarms (FD&A) being one.

New Plymouth’s Ollie Lovell discovered the FD&A trade while doing a pre-trade electrician course at the local Polytech.

“When I came to end of my study and had completed my course, my employer, NPE-Tech, sat me down and offered me a FD&A apprenticeship in their Fire Division.

“I had always been interested in technology and the electrical manager said “you will walk around the corner and see 10 electricians, but not one Fire Technician who can sign off a building warrant of fitness (BWOF), keep buildings open and operating, and pretty much save people's lives. That pretty much sold me on becoming a fire alarm technican. During my study, I would spend a couple of days working in the Fire Division – and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve not regretted changing trades one bit.”

Ollie completed his FD&A Level 4 qualification earlier this year, and is planning to take on Fire Extinguisher papers to gain more industry knowledge. He says ‘earning while you learn’ is something he has really enjoyed.

“It's certainly nice gaining knowledge about your career while making money and studying for a qualification. It was a little challenging at times to come home after a long day and study, but by goal-setting and persuasion, once I started on a paper it was actually quite enjoyable learning, nailing the questions and finishing it in one or two sittings!”

While people readily know about the more common trades, Ollie finds the appeal of Fire Detection in that it’s something different and he has “skills and knowledge that a lot of people wouldn’t know a thing about.” “I also enjoy going out to sites and getting to know customers and other tradies who are working on-site. I couldn’t imaging being in an office all day!”

Both Competenz and Ollie’s employer have helped him throughout his study. Competenz pushed him if he got a bit behind and helped him with questions or concepts he got stuck on. The team at NPE-Tech was also supportive, checking in on him regularly to ensure he was managing the work-study balance.

“I can’t rate them highly enough,” says Ollie. “They always offered assistance and helped me get my qualification.

Allan Richards, NPE-Tech Fire Systems Manager, says Ollie has proven to be a key member of the team.

“Ollie consistently receives positive feedback from customers regarding his performance and communication skills.

“Ollie was our only apprentice for a time. We now have a number of apprentices in work-based learning at NPE-Tech. The Government’s Apprenticeship Boost scheme very much helped our business to attract apprentices. My view is that vocational training is essential in the trades,” said Allan.

Ollie is quick to point out the other benefits of work-based learning.

“Doing an apprenticeship was great, knowing I was working my way towards a qualification, getting paid as I was learning, not racking up any debts at all and thoroughly enjoying every day on the job! It's also really good getting hands-on with all kinds of tools and equipment which give you skills that will last a lifetime.”

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