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Billie’s Building Her Future

By UCOL on Thursday, 31 March 2022

Billie Hemopo

Billie Hemopo is on a roll. She aced her NZ Certificate in Construction Skills Level 3 last year and now has more projects in her sights. 

Doing an art course got Billie interested in architectural design, and she knew that building would give her a practical view of this. Fortunately, Monty and Janet Te Ahuru run a carpentry skills programme for UCOL right in Billie’s hometown of Taumaranui, and they were well known to be good people. 

This gave Billie the confidence to give it a go, so she had no worries about the programme before it started. Billie says that she enjoyed a lot of the training and found her classmates were “just like working with family.” 

“Since it is my hometown I saw a lot of familiar faces, so I never was uncomfortable in the environment,” says Billie.
She found that “Monty was easy to work with and funny every day…but pay attention, ‘cause he will make you take it all off and do it again!”  

When Billie discovered that she was the only girl on the programme, Janet’s company kept her unfazed.  

Monty and Janet found Billie to be a natural: onto it from the start, understanding directions easily, and clued up with the paperwork — she just clicked with construction. Billie grew into a leader who helped her classmates get the work procedures right. Janet predicts that Billie “will no doubt learn and work hard to achieve her goal of becoming a qualified builder.”  

Billie was supported by Kelly Johnston, then Kaiarahi for UCOL’s Maori and Pacific Trades Training Scheme, which covered Billie’s programme fees and incidental costs. Kelly also helped Billie with her Student Allowance application, and ensured Billie had some of the essential tools needed for her apprenticeship.  

A respected local builder is keen to take Billie on for an apprenticeship, showing once more how the Taumaranui community is an active partner of the programme and its graduates. Through the programme Billie found that she loves building - now she’s open to try everything in the building industry.  

For anyone interested in following Billie’s trail into construction, her advice is to be on time or you’ll be left behind, and “Don’t put hinges on the outside of your tool box, guys.”

If you want to give what Billie did a go, contact UCOL on 0800 GO UCOL (0800 468 265), 06 952 7000, or at enquiry@ucol.ac.nz for more information.