Turning challenges into triumphs

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Jeanie Rafills and Pieter Prinsloo.
Jeanie Rafills and Pieter Prinsloo.

When Pieter Prinsloo decided he was ready for a change from scaffolding, he signed up for a carpentry apprenticeship with the BCITO.

Having already enjoyed a successful — and, literally, high-level — career in the trades, there was no doubt he had the skills to make the switch. However, there was one hurdle he hadn’t anticipated — his dyslexia.

“I would often have to rely on my wife to help with the reading. But we have kids, so she had enough on her plate,” Prinsloo says.

For many people with dyslexia or neurodiversity, the paperwork and other demands of study can be a real barrier to getting ahead in their careers. Fortunately, the BCITO’s network of learning partners are well versed in providing the support every apprentice needs.

As a Learning Difference Specialist at Education Unlimited, Jeanie Raffills has spent 24 years supporting adults in literacy and numeracy, including supporting apprentices in various trades, just like Prinsloo.

“Jeanie is excellent at explaining things, and she makes sure I understand what we read. She does this by asking me lots of questions to ensure I get it,” he explains.

Under Jeanie’s guidance, his confidence blossomed. “When we first started, Pieter really struggled with his workbook, and also time management. I actually used to often text his wife to remind him of our sessions,” Raffills says.

“He’s come really far since then, and it’s been very fulfilling watching him succeed.”

Prinsloo’s growth and new-found reading ability have not only helped him in his apprenticeship — they’re having a real ripple effect on other areas of his life as well, including his family.

“Now that my reading has improved, I’m helping my daughter to read,” he shares proudly, something that would have been impossible before he took on his apprenticeship.

He also recently attended a Critical Skills workshop, jointly organised by Education Unlimited and the BCITO.

This provided a platform for apprentices with learning difficulties to share their experiences, learn strategies, and develop essential skills for success in their trades.

“The workshop was great. It was helpful to connect with others in a similar situation and to share my knowledge of how to do things orally using the media option in the training portal, which is how I work with my supervisor,” he recalls.

With Raffills’ support, Prinsloo’s sights are set on becoming a fully qualified and competent builder with the ability to earn a strong income.

His message to fellow apprentices is to seek help, be open to support, and never let a learning difficulty put out the flame of your ambition.

The trades industry in New Zealand is ready to welcome more apprentices like Prinsloo. With partners like Education Unlimited, the BCITO has the resources and support systems to ensure everyone can be a success.

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