When Boydy Scott pulled into Placemakers, Huntly and saw a Wintec student waiting for a work experience contact who hadn’t shown up, he said, “Jump in, you can help us out today”.
That was the start of a job for the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training student at Builtsmart in Huntly that has since turned into 16 apprenticeships for Wintec students.
“He has turned out really well”, says Scott and the opportunities keep coming as Builtsmart continues to grow, putting quality-built classrooms and modular homes in reach for New Zealanders.
Two years ago, Scott and his wife, Aimee Scott, who were living in London, had no plans to be part of the business that her father, Philip Leather started in Huntly 38 years ago, but he managed to lure them home.
“He knew I was into my sport science, not building, and Aimee is a teacher, but my father-in-law said ‘you can use your coaching and teaching experience to build and run the team of contractors’, which is what we are doing.”
Around 40 employees, contractors and apprentices work at Builtsmart, turning around classrooms in 4-5 weeks and houses from 4-6 weeks.
It’s a building yard like no other, with slick undercover bays where buildings are made and trucked out from Huntly to Northland, down to Wellington and everywhere in between.
Contractors and crew have been here for the long haul and Builtsmart keeps it as local as possible, supporting Huntly manufacturers and creating jobs for the local community.
Māori and Pasifika Trades Training students come here for work experience and Scott says around 75 percent of them stay on and get a job.
“They come to us and start from scratch,” says Scott. “That means sweeping the floor if it’s needed. Everyone is different but we can show them what to do, nurture them, give them some lunch if they have none. Most are hands-on, they learn by doing and once we throw them in with a builder, it can be surprising how fast they pick it up.
“You can teach anyone to build, but we look for natural willingness, motivation, if they have that, then we know we’re going to get a good worker and they are going to get a lot back from their career.”
He recalls offering a group of work experience students the opportunity to learn concreting, but they had to show up at 1am.
“It’s tough, when you’re young and you don’t have transport, but just one guy walked here all the way from Huntly West. He may not have been the most skilled worker when he arrived here, but he was motivated, he picked up the skills and we gave him a job.”
Huntly-born and bred carpentry apprentice, Marshall Thomas has been with Builtsmart for more than two years and he’s now a year into his building apprenticeship. He had no career plans but heard about Māori and Pasifika Trades Training at Wintec from a friend.
“It was free, so I thought yeah, I’ll give it a try,” he says. “If it hadn’t been free, then I wouldn’t be here. It’s been a great opportunity for me. The people are really good here.”
Recently Thomas became a dad, and when asked what the future holds, he says one day he wants to run his own crew.
Builtsmart’s community is proudly grounded in Huntly, and Scott is quick to point out that few people hear about the good stuff going on, which he says is home to “the best rugby league club in Aotearoa” and people like runner Ants Pitman, who has turned his life around and is training Huntly’s kids , two initiatives which Builtsmart is proud to sponsor.
Over the fence, a housing development will soon take shape. Another feather in the cap of Builtsmart’s director who wants to create accessible housing for people like Thomas who have found work, a career and a future here, thanks to a company that cares.
“If you provide a happy, whānau-centred environment, everyone will stay. It’s not all about the money, and that’s what we are doing here,” adds Scott.