Chelsea’s building a great future

Chelsea Roper at work on a house in Queenstown.

There are a number of things that apprentice carpenter Chelsea Roper loves about her job.

While using the nail gun and other tools are on the list, “taking nothing and making something’’ is right at the top.

No doubt that has something to do with her background as a graphic designer in Auckland. But having done that for six years, Ms Roper moved to Queenstown with her partner and a plan to build a house.

Instead of waiting to watch that happen, she decided to learn how to join both her partner and her oldest brother in the trade.

“I thought that if we were going to build a house in Queenstown, then I should learn so that I could help to build the house,” she says. 

The 25-year-old is now a carpentry apprentice for Mike Thurston at RMT Builders.

It’s a great time for Ms Roper to be entering the sector, as employment forecasts show there will be more than 80,000 new and replacement job openings in the next five years due to a $100 billion construction boom.

But more women are needed in the industry. Currently, less than 3% of the construction workforce are women. But a huge amount of those report strong job satisfaction, with 96% of women apprentices saying they enjoy their role.

Ms Roper is certainly one of them, finding the work particularly rewarding. “When you’re building a house, you see it go from an empty piece of grass to something somebody can call home.”

While changing careers has presented a steep learning curve, Ms Roper’s often repeated mantra that “you can do it’’ has got her through the tough times.

That can-do attitude and her determination to do well are invaluable in the construction trade.

“So much of it’s in your head,” she says. “I just tell myself I can do it, and I do.”

Now she is sharing the building journey that she’s on through her Instagram page @SheBuildsBro, which has well over 6300 followers.

It’s clear that she’s loving the career change, its constant challenges and its learning opportunities.

And even as a carpentry apprentice with the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO), Ms Roper is already earning more than she was with two design diplomas in her previous career.

The BCITO and Mitre 10 Building Women Night takes place at Mitre10 Mega in Queenstown from 6.30pm on Tuesday, October 15. Other events like this are also scheduled in different parts of the country.

These events will introduce women who want to get into the trades to local employers, who are all about the apprentice with the right attitude. Visit to register for your local event.

This story first appeared in the Central Otago News.

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