At the age of 21, UCOL | Te Pūkenga apprentice Ethan Gwyn has made his mark in the world of joinery, recently being honoured with the Best Fitment Under 2 Years award at the Master Joiners Apprentice Awards 2023.
Gwyn's winning project was for a handcrafted TV bookcase unit. He says the prestigious award is one of his biggest achievements to date.
"It was a very cool project. I loved the complexity of it and working out all the bits and pieces to turn a drawing on paper into something in front of me. It was reassuring to be recognised for something I'm passionate about. It makes me feel like I'm on the right path."
Growing up all over New Zealand, Gwyn discovered his passion for joinery while at high school in Auckland.
"I loved doing woodwork all through high school. I even got a prize for my work. Lots of people started telling me I'd be a good joiner because I have the eye for detail so I decided to take the leap and moved to Lower Hutt to become a joinery apprentice at Graedon Joinery."
Gwyn's boss at Graedon Joinery has been an incredible support, encouraging him to enrol in the New Zealand Certificate of Joinery at UCOL.
"Joining UCOL was a natural choice for me. My boss helped organise everything so I could study via distance while still working in the workshop. It's amazing to be able to learn while doing what I love and getting paid as a full-time employee."
With a self-directed curriculum, Gwyn says he enjoys the flexibility to learn at his own pace.
"There's a guideline on when you should complete the assignments, but no fixed due dates, so I can get it done when it works for me. It's a four-year apprenticeship generally — but I'm 2.5 years in and on track to be done by the end of the year, which is exciting!"
Gwyn says he finds his work incredibly rewarding and can't believe how far he's come in such a short time.
"I love the creativity and versatility in my job. Knowing I can go to work and learn something one day and then something completely different the next.
"At the start of my apprenticeship, I didn't know anything about joinery. Within three or four months, I was able to go off on my own and create something without supervision, and a year later I was teaching other employees the skills I had learnt.
"Now I'm being trusted to go out on site, meet customers on my own, work in their house and install the things I've made — and my work is being recognised!"
Gwyn says he is incredibly grateful for the support he has received from his supervisors at UCOL too.
"It's been great having the support there when I need it. Every two months, I get a visit from my supervisor to make sure I'm on the right track. We have a good chat about the study side of things and talk about things I can work towards, what I can achieve, and set goals for the coming months."
Gwyn encourages others interested in joinery to give it a go.
"Joinery is a trade you can really take pride in, it takes a lot of passion, creativity, and it's really rewarding. If you're considering studying joinery, do it! We need more people - it's an exciting trade to get into."
For more information about the New Zealand Certificate in Joinery, visit UCOL's website.