As a production engineer at BREMCA, the largest electrical switchboard manufacturer owned and operated in New Zealand, Samoan-born Itunu George Tupai is passing on the skills he has learnt from 15 years’ experience, to young Pasifika apprentices.
The Skills Organisation National Manager Pasifika, Issac Liava’a, believes George is an ideal role model to inspire others.
“George had a tough upbringing with plenty of challenges, but he is keen to share his experiences and how he overcame them, to help others,” says Issac.
The two were part of a research project called ‘Successful Pasifika learners in the workplace setting’ - a pilot that the two set up which involved The Skills Organisation, BREMCA and MIT.
It evaluated the effectiveness of study groups, peer-to-peer support and mentoring in helping Pasifika Electrical apprentices.
George mentored and tutored up to 16 trainees over an eight-week period which involved a mixture of on-the-job learning and workshops and assessments at MIT.
The findings from the pilot scheme will help formulate best practices for supporting Pasifika students in workplace training schemes such as apprenticeships.
Good mentoring support and small study groups, especially in the workplace, are key,” says Issac.
George was born and raised in Falelatai, a village on the island of Upolu in Samoa. He described it as a “hard life”.
At age 16 he was adopted and his step parents brought him to New Zealand. He lived in Manurewa and worked at a farm in Pukekohe.
While he enjoyed it, the farm owner told George he was too good to be doing basic farm work.
George was considering applying to join the army or police, but the owner put aside some of his pay to enable him to return to study.
Having only spoken Samoan for the first 17 years of his life, he admits he still has his challenges studying.
But George’s ability to do the job is what counts.
“Sometimes I have trouble trying to get across and explain with words, so I just end up going to a switchboard and showing them,” he says.
“It’s what they prefer, anyway.”
With Auckland’s building and construction boom showing little sign of easing, the demand for BREMCA’s switchboards continues to grow.
“It’s always evolving with changing technology. We see first-hand what’s new in the market and what’s coming through,” says George.
“The learning curve for me and the guys is enormous, but that’s what makes it interesting and keeps our minds on the job.”
George is keen to continue mentoring Pasifika students as he continues studying and gaining further qualifications.
While highly valued at BREMCA, which also specialises in switchgear and automation solutions, he knows having qualifications is the key to ensuring his skills are recognised and valued across the industry.
Visit www.skills.org.nz/trades to read more inspiring stories.
Or call 0508 SKILLS (754 557) to find out how you can earn and learn with a trade.