Winners told to keep learning

Seen at last month’s Smiths NZ Scholarship Awards are, from left, outgoing Waikato Chamber of Commerce CEO William Durning, awards recipients Ian Barnes and Caroline Edwards, Smith NZ co-founder Cecile Smith, and awards recipient Jessica Liggett-Bowring.

Three apprentices who received Smiths Scholarship Awards last month were told their futures would be shaped by their willingness to undergo on-going training.

Auckland’s Caroline Edwards and Ian Barnes, and Tauranga’s Jessica Liggett-Bowring were presented with their awards at the Smiths NZ base near Hamilton Airport. The company imports and distributes electrical appliances. It runs the Smiths Scholarship Awards in conjunction with The Skills Organisation, to recognise the importance of industry-supported training.

Cecile Smith, who with her late husband Alex started Smiths NZ in 1989, told the apprentices that the landscape for electricians was changing faster than that of many other trades, and that trainees must accept that this would not be the last time they would have to be in a classroom.  When presenting the Cecile Smith Award to Caroline Edwards, she said: “You will have to keep up. The industry is moving more towards areas of specialisation … you will have to be adaptable and take every opportunity for future in-service training.”

She said the shortage of apprentices meant that what should take four months to do was taking much longer, and while there were government moves in place to address the issue, the industry was itself having to fill the gaps.

As Smiths NZ director, Cambridge’s Amie Amosa, presented the Female Leadership Award to Jessica Liggett-Bowring, she said gender equality and diversity within the industry was increasingly important as New Zealand needed to value all its human capital.  “The moral case for diversity is obvious, but the business case is equally compelling. We are only just getting started on gender equality.”

The gathering was also told that Waikato’s geographical position and growth offered almost unparalleled opportunities for those entering the trades.

Outgoing Waikato Chamber of Commerce CEO William Durning said the award recipients couldn’t be in a better place. He said the best opportunities exist where “all three legs of a stool” are present, community, environment and meaningful work.

“You will find over half of New Zealand’s population within a two-hour circle of Hamilton.  That corridor – or Metro Waikato – offers a great deal in terms of industrial and commercial opportunities and green space we can grow into.

“Young tradespeople need to look beyond their sector; they need to be resilient, to drive the value chain and look globally,” he said.

Steve Braniff, chief operations officer with Ideal Electrical Suppliers NZ, presented the Smiths/Ideal Award to Ian Barnes, and spoke of the importance of innovation. “With the industry changes and the growth in smart technology, we all have to learn and grow continuously.”

The Skills Organisation’s Lance Riesterer, general manager (specialist trades), said his organisation was interacting with about 9000 apprentices, 4,500 of which were electrical apprentices.

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