Students build bright future with Build-Ability Challenge


A building challenge giving secondary students hands-on experience of an apprenticeship is appealing to those looking to nail their career options straight out of school.

Teams from 14 secondary schools across the country are competing in the annual Build-Ability Challenge which sees them plan, design and build a project of their choice while sticking to a strict budget.

The challenge, which kicked off in May, is a key part of the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation’s strategy to attract new apprentices and demonstrate the opportunities of a career in the trades.

The Build-Ability Challenge is designed to give students a head start on their apprenticeship, BCITO chief executive Warwick Quinn says.

“This year we redesigned the challenge to allow students to work on an approved project of their choice. This means work will align with the schools’ curriculums and complement learning happening within the school’s technology programme,” he says.

“Continuing from last year, the competition also integrates with the BCATS National Certificate, allowing students to earn unit and achievement standards — giving students a head start on their construction training.”

The challenge, combined with the fact that an apprenticeship offers Kiwis straight out of high school the opportunity to “earn while you learn”, showcases an apprenticeship as a very attractive option for young New Zealanders looking to get a head start on their careers, Mr Quinn says.

“We are committed to supporting and empowering as many young New Zealanders as possible to pursue an apprenticeship, and offering a practical solution to the skills shortage in New Zealand’s construction sector.”

Seth Sutherland, a participant in the 2016 Build-Ability competition who is now working as a carpentry apprentice in Nelson, credits the Build-Ability Challenge with opening the door to this career for him straight out of school.

He says the challenge provided him with real, hands-on experience of what an apprenticeship would be like.

“I knew I was interested in an apprenticeship, but didn’t have much experience. When I heard about the challenge I jumped at the opportunity.

“The challenge really set me up for an apprenticeship. There was a real focus on the planning stage and working from plans, which was really helpful and something you don’t tend to cover in woodworking class.”

A year into his apprenticeship, Seth says he is really enjoying it, and would recommend it to other school leavers considering it as an option.

Throughout the challenge, students must consider how their project will make a difference to their community. At the end of the challenge, students will donate their projects to their school or an organisation of their choice.

In September, expert judges will decide the overall winners, and the People’s Choice category winner will be selected by online public voting.

The schools competing in the 2017 BCITO Build-Ability Challenge are Aotea College, Mercury Bay Area School, St Thomas of Canterbury College, Feilding High School, Ngaruawahia High School, Te Kauwhata College, Hamilton Boys High School, Otahuhu College, Waiuku College, Howick College, Rangitikei College, Whanganui City College, Marlborough Boys’ College and Rodney College.

To find out more about the Build-Ability Challenge and to follow the students’ journey, visit

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