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Taupo apprentice takes out The Great Apprentice Race

JULY 09, 2019








Chaos and creativity ruled at The Mitre 10 Trade Great Apprentice Race. At the event, which is the fun component in the finals of the NZCB Apprentice Challenge, New Zealand’s top 20 apprentices were given just four hours to design and build their own wheelbarrow. 

The race was held at the NZCB conference & expo in Christchurch on June 14 with up to 700 delegates watching on. 

Competitors used identical tools and materials and had to build the best wheelbarrow they could. All under the gaze of qualified builders from right around the country. 

Mitre 10 Trade sponsors the annual race, which was taken out this year by Taupo’s Thomas Grainger. It was second time lucky for Thomas, 24, who also entered in 2018. 

Thomas had learned from his experience in 2018 and went into the 2019 competition determined to win, which he did. He walked away with a $750 voucher and $1,700 of De Walt power tools he had used in the competition. 

A first this year was a female finalist. Kitty Thomas from Palmerston North hopes that by muscling out the men at regionals she will attract more females to building. 

Mitre 10 Trade caught up with Thomas and Kitty after The Great Apprentice Race to see how it went. 









Thomas Grainger: 

MITRE 10: Why did you enter the NZCB National Apprentice Challenge

THOMAS: “The first time I entered was to win some stuff and because the boss wanted us all to do it. I finished second regionals last year. I thought ‘this is really cool and you get some great prizes out of it’.” 

MITRE 10: What did you learn from your first time competing in the NZCB National Apprentice Challenge?

THOMAS: “Last year we made a playhouse. It was difficult and I didn’t really take it seriously. This year I got in there and worked hard straight away and ended up finishing my bench seat project to the highest standard within six hours. “

MITRE 10: The Mitre 10 Trade Great Apprentice Race is one of the key parts of the final stage of the National Apprentice Challenge. Did you think you had what it would take to win?

THOMAS: “I definitely wanted to win and prove that I could do it. This time I knew what I had to do and I built my wheelbarrow to be strong and to last.”

MITRE 10: Did you have any special skills that helped you in the Mitre 10 Trade Great Apprentice Race? 

THOMAS: “I am a qualified joiner. At the competition this year I had to add a door handle to the wheelbarrow and I have done heaps of those for my joinery. It was really natural to do.”

MITRE 10: What was most challenging about the final?

THOMAS: “Finishing it with in the four hours and the angles of the tray on the wheelbarrow.” 

MITRE 10: What did you enjoy most about The Great Race?

THOMAS: “I really enjoyed meeting new people and seeing more about the industry. We are all still in touch in a Snapchat group.”

MITRE 10: Do you have tips for future competitors?

THOMAS: If you want to win take it seriously and go hard out straight away.”

Thomas says apprentices who want to step up should always give everything a go. Learning is fun. 









Kitty Thomas:

Palmerston North’s Kitty Thomas, 29, moved into the building industry after a number of years working at the IHC and other jobs. 

The journey into building apprentice has been a family affair. Kitty’s employer Paul Hewitt who owns local building company Summerside Limited was the father of an old primary school friend. Not long before Kitty finished her pre-apprenticeship training at UCOL her mother ran into Paul and convinced him to give her daughter a go as an apprentice. 

MITRE 10: Why did you enter NZCB National Apprentice Challenge?

KITTY: “To be honest it was all the free stuff, although I also heard it was a great experience. It was also a way to get myself out there and out of my comfort zone.”

MITRE 10: This is the second time you have entered the National Apprentice Challenge. What did you learn from last time? 

KITTY: “I did a big learn from last year and looked at what tripped me up. The play house was really tricky and (my work) wasn’t as accurate as it should have been. I pre-cut everything and couldn’t work out what was what.”

MITRE 10: How did nationals go in Christchurch recently? 

KITTY: “I didn’t place, but I had a great time. Holy moly I had to get another bag to fit all the free stuff in. Mitre 10 gave us the De Walt (power tools) we used. At the expo I picked up t-shirts, pencils, tape measures and much more.”

MITRE 10: Do you have any tips for women and girls interested in becoming apprentices? 

KITTY: “Honestly, just give it a go. Don’t be daunted by the fact it’s a male dominated industry. It’s awesome. I love being able to look at the progress we have made on a building and I will be able to drive past in 50 years with my grandchildren and say: ‘I built those houses’.”









For more information about The National Apprentice Challenge and the Mitre 10 Trade Great Apprentice Race click here. 


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