The national Got a Trade campaign officially begins next week as the country’s top industry training organisations, including print training body Competenz,  raise awareness of on-the-job training and careers in 140 of New Zealand’s trades and services.

The campaign also celebrates the talents and achievements of young people making headway in their chosen vocation. Among them, Sione Taueli Tonga, the print industry’s Apprentice of the Year.

Nominated for the Future Business Leaders Award, Tauleli Tonga will join the national drive next week to encourage more school leaders to consider earning and learning by taking up an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.

The 33-year-old married father of three started at Auckland-based printing company Stratex New Zealand as a machine operator. He says, “Taking up an apprenticeship was an easy decision. Before coming to Stratex, I would do whatever casual work was available, including fork hoist driving, picking and packing food, unloading containers and much more. I would do anything to support my family. But now that I’m a qualified printer, I feel like I can provide for my family and their future.”

He took out the Apprentice of the Year at the Pride in Print Awards in Auckland earlier this year. He says, “When I told my family about the award they were really proud of me, as well as my colleagues. Every morning when I wake up, I’m proud to come to work at Stratex. I’m really happy to be here. I’m grateful to Stratex and the Print Manager Ross Halliday for giving me the chance to further my education.”

Now, starting a Diploma in Print Industry Management (Level 5), he has ambitions to fulfil. He says, “My goal is to one day become a manager running a department. It’s every Pacific teenager’s dream to become a boss in a company, especially for someone like me, starting with nothing to becoming something.”

As well as spending precious time with his family, he loves singing; a passion he’s enjoyed since he was young. He explains, “Before becoming a printer, the only thing I knew I was good at was singing. I took opera singing lessons while in high school back in Tonga so that I could be the lead singer when I was just 13-years-old. Now I am the lead tenor in a choir of around 200 members.”

His advice for future apprentices: “Don’t give up, keep working, there is always a way around any problem. Use every chance given to you as a step forward. Don’t take your chances in life for granted.”

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