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Elisa-Leigh, just one of a growing number of wāhine joining the industry!

When she was 19, Elisa-Leigh Atkins-Percaskey decided her job as a bartender was going nowhere. However, while working at the Port, she developed a taste for working with tools, so she decided to apply for a vast range of hands-on jobs. The first employer that replied was a sole-operator roofing contractor who introduced her to the world of roofing and provided her with a great start in her learning journey.

Fast-forward six years, Elisa-Leigh joined a larger firm and was given the opportunity to formalise her education with a roofing apprenticeship. Elisa-Leigh found the block courses she attended at Vertical Horizonz in Christchurch helped her to work through the classroom-based learning. This course also allowed her to focus on completing all the course requirements, and not have to feel pressured to juggle both work and study commitments.

She credits the VHNZ block courses with getting her through her apprenticeship, and she is now thriving in this exciting but challenging industry.

“I find it so hard to motivate myself with my tool belt off! Joining the other apprentices in a flexible environment while being supported by our amazing trainer Mark Bishop was the key to me completing the bookwork,” says Elisa-Leigh.

Mark Bishop, Roofing Trainer at VHNZ says in his opinion, the most important thing Elisa-Leigh brought to the block courses was a positive attitude.

“Many young people come to the course thinking that they have a handle on the skills. However, you’ve got to be open to learning the important details that your boss on-site may not have time to teach you,” he says.

“Our supportive approach is the real advantage of these block courses, as we get a chance to drill down into the reasoning for some of the things that are just taken for granted out on site. The trainees have the benefit of an experienced ‘old hand’ working alongside them, focused on helping them learn,” says Bishop.

Back out on the tools, Elisa-Leigh loves her job, is committed to continual learning and feels proud of obtaining her qualification.

“I learn something new every day - or I learn a better way of doing something,” she says.

“Roofing is just as mentally challenging as it is physically; a willingness to learn and an open-minded approach are so important in this job.”

Her advice for those looking to join the roofing trade is that success is all down to mentality.

“You need to take constructive criticism well, be persistent to develop your skills and have the self-confidence to share your ideas,” she says.

While ten years ago, female roofers were rare in Aotearoa, Elisa-Leigh is just one of a growing number of wāhine joining the industry.

“There were challenges in the beginning for me, but I’ve seen the young male roofers go through the same struggles, so we all experience the same ups and downs. You’ve just got to work hard, focus on learning as much as possible, and the respect comes with that.”

Roofing Eliza
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