Now one year into her apprenticeship as an alloy boat builder at the prestigious McMullen and Wing, Auckland, Brooke Tawhara is breaking through the glass ceiling and demonstrating that women can do everything!
It all began in her Year 11 engineering class at One Tree Hill College where students were given a project to design and build a weather vane. Not only did Brooke outsmart the boys with her design, but her attention to detail in the welding and finishing of her product, saw her awarded with the top prize for Level One Engineering that year. It was that accolade, and the belief that she could actually do this better than most of her classmates, that opened her eyes into investigating a possible career using her new-found skills. Now with over a year’s experience working at the East Auckland boat building and service yard, Brooke is loving her job. Her apprenticeship training so far has found her studying a diverse range of topics including characteristics of aluminium alloy, computerized manufacturing processes and calculating costs for boatbuilding, and now glass fibre laminating, but as with everything else in her role, Brooke takes it all in her stride. One of her key projects has been on the construction of a custom-designed aquaculture vessel, a venture Mc Mullen and Wing have proudly partnered with East Coast Iwi and a mussel farm to build an innovative new vessel. In addition to welding and cutting, she has been the sole programmer and operator of the Company’s CNC plasma machine used to cut all the aluminium and steel plate for the vessel.
Brooke is enjoying the challenge of learning new skills and the variety of work she has been involved in. She has been fascinated seeing the project unfold, from observing the initial design to seeing the way the boat all came together. She feels thankful to be working in a supportive team with some very skilled tradespeople who are teaching her their craft. It would be fair to say that Resources Manager Phil Allen initially had reservations about how Brooke would be accepted as the first female apprentice at the yard in a traditionally male-dominated workplace. However, it soon became clear that his concerns were unfounded. From day one the staff accepted Brooke as their equal. With her quiet determination and ability to learn trade skills she was quickly able to contribute to the team. With good communication skills, a hunger to learn, and producing high-quality work, it was evident how well suited she was to this new role.
NZMAC ITO School to Work Transition Advisor Tracey Eaton has enjoyed sharing Brooke’s success story with other young women in high schools. Recently Brooke accompanied Tracey to a Women in Trades event, participated in a panel discussion with other talented tradeswomen discussing their craft and demonstrated that this is a viable career pathway for practically capable young women.