NMIT graduate building reputation from the ground up

NMIT graduate building reputation from the ground up

Levi Mortimer is a qualified carpenter working for Scott Construction building residential houses in Nelson and Tasman.

Unsure of what to do out of school, Levi signed up for the New Zealand Certificate in Foundation Skills at NMIT (previously known as the Certificate in Trades and Primary Industries).

The certificate gives students a taster of many different programme areas, which is useful if, like Levi, you’re struggling to figure out the next step. Students can then pathway onto a range of diploma and degree programmes at NMIT.

On completion of the course, Levi had a choice to make: should he continue with mechanics, adventure tourism or building? He chose building and began the National Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4) managed apprenticeship after advice from a friend. “I had a mate who did the mechanics. He said there’s a lot of paperwork. That wasn’t my type of thing so I went building.”

Levi is now in the final stages of a full time building apprenticeship with Scott Construction. He builds residential houses mainly, but the scope is wide open. Levi is also the 2016 recipient of the Kelly McGarry Dream-Believe-Be award. The award recognises an NMIT carpentry student who has ‘demonstrated ability while overcoming adversity or obstacles that would stop many from achieving their goals’.

The 22-year-old loves going to work and getting stuck in. He turns up early, has yet to take a sick day, and is proud to be able to provide a good income for his family of six including his partner Abbey.

The journey from school leaver to full time building apprentice wasn’t easy for Levi. It took a lot of determination and hard work, which continues to this day. Not one for academics, Levi is a practical guy who struggled at school. “In class at school I wasn’t learning. I wasn’t listening. I wanted to get out of there.” He soon discovered how different the tutors were at NMIT compared to school. “They had more time for you. They actually cared to teach you.”

And Levi needed every bit of extra help he could get. “We spent a lot of time with Levi,” says tutor Steve McIntrye. "Reading questions. Interpreting what the question was, and then writing down what Levi said.” Fortunately for Levi and countless other kinesthetics like him, NMIT programmes are hands-on by design. Students complete a practical apprenticeship alongside their studies. They also get to practise skills in a purpose-built carpentry barn. Tutors visit them in the workplace and assess their ability to complete the tasks set by the workplace foreman. They also offer guidance, and only once they feel the student is ready will they assess.

At the start of the Level 4 programme, Levi went to Kidson Construction for a three-month trial period. He trimmed hedges, of all things. Turns out it was a ‘bit of a test’. Then construction manager, Rob Edmonds, figured that if Levi could stick at that type of work he’d make a great apprentice. And so it was. Levi went straight into an apprenticeship with Kidson Construction working on a range of commercial jobs. Things like fixing cellphone towers, building retaining walls. And a whole lot of steel and concrete work - the ‘shit work’ as Levi says. But he did so without complaint, always putting his best foot forward.

Levi's 'just do it' attitude led to a second full time apprenticeship with building firm Scott Construction (the firm had recently bought out Kidson Construction). Those first few weeks with Scott Construction were a pretty big wake up call, says Levi. “Working in town around noises, with heaps of people walking past and looking in was quite intimidating.” However, Levi rose to the challenge, drawing on what seems like an exhaustive amount of personal drive strengthened by confidence built over time.

The fact that Levi managed to study, work and help to raise four children, including his stepdaughter, all at once is a huge endeavour for anyone. You’ve got to take your hat off to him. "He's overcome a bit of adversity, stuck to things and never quit,” says Steve. “He's not feared failure out on site ... and it's fair to say he's a very well-liked and respected employee of the company he's with.”

Levi plans to keep growing in confidence all the way to the top and Steve believes he'll make it. "He has real potential in being a leading hand or becoming a foreman."

To anyone wishing to study at NMIT, Levi says: “If you’ve got a dream, like if you wanna be a builder or whatever you wanna be, just do it. Just have faith in yourself and do it. Don’t give up.”

Find out more about a career in Building and Construction at NMIT.

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