March 16th, 2012
'Women in Welding' a winning partnership
In 2010 Hamilton-based stainless steel fabrication specialists Longveld Engineering launched a ‘Women in Welding’ initiative to attract more women into their male-dominated trade.
They were offering up to five production welder jobs with full training support for the successful applicants. Back then, they could never have anticipated how life-changing and successful the venture would prove.
Today, four local women – Hui Tamati, Mamai Sylva, Lianne Rawiri, and Debbie Mahara-Whakakura – can now proudly say they have been Longveld employees for over 18 months as a direct result of the initiative.
But what made the outcome even more special is that all four women were transitioned from the Domestic Purposes Benefit into their roles. And each has gained skills, knowledge, and a genuine career pathway into a sector that desperately needs more skilled workers. It’s the perfect outcome for everyone involved.
Site welding manager, Nik Given, played a key role setting up the initiative along with Longveld’s directors, Les and Pam Roa. “We wanted to create career opportunities specifically for women who want to work but missed out on gaining work-ready skills earlier in life,” says Nik.
“We provided all the training needed to support the women into careers in this trade – welding is a key skill for us and industry,” says Nik.
Longveld partnered with the Ministry of Social Development and Competenz in August 2010 to meet their objective. The production welder roles were advertised at Work and Income offices all around Hamilton, and an Open Day was hosted by Longveld for applicants to attend.
“We had 24 women on the day, and it was the fantastic attitude of these four women that stood out,” says Nik. “They were so positive and keen to learn new skills - that was what we were looking for.”
Mamai Sylva went along with her 20-year-old daughter – the second eldest of her five children. Although her daughter missed out, Mamai was successful and has flourished in her new role. She’s become a role model her daughter wants to emulate.
“She’s more determined than ever to gain an apprenticeship of her own, and I know she can do it,” says Mamai.
For Hui it has also been life-changing. Making ends meet on the DPB with two young boys to support had become a real struggle – it motivated her to make a change to improve their lot in life.
“When I got the call telling me I’d got the job I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
“We start work early and finish in time to collect our kids from day care or school each day – Longveld is really flexible and supportive of our family commitments.
“Entering the workforce and being part of a big team was nerve-racking at first. But we felt really welcome and everyone here is happy to help you learn,” says Hui.
When it came to learning new skills and completing practical tasks, they had to work their way up just like any other employee.
“The boys weren’t going to let us get straight in there and start welding – we had to get the basics first, like using a grinder and practicing cutting skills,” says Mamai.
“Nik taught us way more than the basics of welding theory. We knew more terminology than most of the apprentices by the end of our training.”
Mamai even came up with her own formula for success. “Preparation is the key – if you prepare your work pieces well and remember the theory behind what you’re doing, everything works out sweet as!”
Hui, Mamai and Debbie all completed their Level 3 National Certificates in Welding, and Lianne is well on her way toward achieving a National Certificate in Manufacturing Core Skills.
Now Mamai’s taking further steps forward in her career pathway. She has just started a heavy fabrication apprenticeship which she’ll complete at Longveld over the next three to four years.
“For someone her size, Mamai is strong and very capable,” says Nik. “She’s very driven, positive, and her welding skills are exemplary. She’ll make a great tradesperson.”
Right now Longveld’s workload includes retro-fitting and building new milk transportation tankers for dairy giant, Fonterra. All the women contribute to the project - fabricating and welding the mild-steel mounts, to preparing and acid-washing internal pipework for the tankers.
“We also get to contribute ideas to make our work areas more efficient and productive – one of my ideas was put in place. It’s great to know our ideas are valued,” say Hui.
The future looks bright for our ‘Women in Welding’ thanks to the forward-thinking of the Longveld team. Mamai is especially excited by the opportunities ahead, and can’t wait to become a fully qualified tradesperson.
“I’m taking over the world! This is a career and not just a job - I love what I do.”
Longveld Engineering's Nik Given (back) with Hui Tamati, Mamai Sylva, and Lianne Rawiri (L-R) - three of the company's four successful 'Women in Welding' initiative participants.