The structural steel sector recently came together in Nelson to applaud the bright new talent in the industry with the Apprentice of the Year and Young Achiever of the Year awards.

The Steel Construction New Zealand (SCNZ) awards acknowledge the growing number of highly capable individuals emerging in the structural steel industry, and celebrate those whose skills, drive and willingness to learn has helped them to achieve outstanding outcomes. They recognise well-rounded people who demonstrate not only talent and a good attitude, but display traits important to the industry – commitment, innovation and agility.

“We are committed to investing in the future of New Zealand’s structural steel industry and developing the young members of our trade, which is so important given the effect of Covid on New Zealand’s capability,” says SCNZ chair David Moore.

“As a well-established industry we have an obligation to impart our skills and experience to our up-and-coming structural steel specialists to safeguard the sector’s future and support our economic recovery.”

The industry is walking the talk. More than 10 percent of the total workforce employed by local structural steel contractors are in a training programme, and 70 percent of structural steel contractors employ an average of five apprentices.

Judging the awards was no easy feat due to the high calibre of finalists in both categories, and all are deserving of an accolade. The standard of apprentices continues to be high and the winner and finalists are each a great reflection of the tradespeople coming through the industry. And the young achievers all possess leadership skills beyond their years and are strong ambassadors for the industry now and into the future.

Apprentice of the Year winner: Zayne Pullan, Red Steel

Zayne Pullan started his apprenticeship in 2019 and promptly impressed with his can-do attitude, and his ability to learn and grow. He quickly became proficient at interpreting drawings and ensuring the safe handling of structural steel components.

Red Steel workshop manager Alister Varcoe says that Pullan has constantly grown in his ability to fabricate and weld complex, heavy structural steel items.

“Zayne is now one of our leading fabricators and completes with ease some of the most challenging fabrication and welding projects that Red Steel has ever seen.”

Varcoe says that Pullan’s positive and reliable attitude towards work, coupled with his ability to bring fresh ideas to the table, make him a highly valuable employee.

Apprentice of the Year finalists were Sam Grearny, Patton Engineering and Dylan Lee, John Jones Steel.

Young Achiever of the Year winner: Abishai Tupuola, Grayson Engineering

Abishai Tupuola entered the industry with an unusual skillset, but quickly adapted and has instigated some significant projects for Grayson Engineering. He graduated from university as a graphic design and worked as a labourer for Grayson Engineering while he searched for a job in his chosen field. Finding a job in line with his qualification proved difficult yet Abishai remained positive.

“Abishai has shown great self-motivation,” says Kurt Hatchard, workshop supervisor, Grayson Engineering. As a result, he has progressively worked in all areas of Grayson Engineering from on site, to the workshop, to the office.

An early project involved creating a new company profile for Grayson Engineering. Tupuola exceeded the company’s expectations, and he was offered a new role as its Communications Officer, responsible for creating advertising and marketing content, and keeping the website up to date.

“At the time, we were in the process of getting an environmental certification,” says Hatchard. “We assigned Abishai with the responsibility to create an environmental management system for our company. He worked closely with a Toitū advisor and produced accurate and professional documents.”

Tupuola  has assumed responsibility for maintaining Grayson Engineering’s environmental system and is currently training to become its health and safety manager.

Young Achiever of the Year finalists were Anson Alexander, Black Steel Mobile and Riti Sharma, Alrite Steel & Services.