Jess Nielsen has made history by becoming the first woman to place at the Registered Master Builders CARTERS Apprentice of the Year competition.
The competition has been running for 20 years. When 22-year-old Jess placed third at the national finals after winning the Waikato regional final she broke a record that symbolises the changing shape of the construction industry says Registered Master Builders National President Johnny Calley.
“A better understanding of the sector has led to the transition away from a traditional ‘blue-collar’ workforce to a widely respected industry that is attractive to a diverse range of people. Not only are we seeing an increase of more female building apprentices, but many people now are entering the trade as a second or third career choice,” Mr Calley said.
While Jess is the first woman to place in the finals of the competition, she said it was encouraging to see other women competing in the qualifying rounds as well.
“Over the whole competition, I know there were two [women] entrants from the Waikato and a few more in other regions – so it was good to see representation from across the country.”
While she does not currently have a women-led network to call on, a move from Waikato to Wanaka could open doors for her in the future.
“I have moved to the South Island and there are heaps more women working in the industry across qualified builders and apprentices. I have heard there is a women’s hub here that I can be a part of, so I am keen to get involved with that – and my boss’s wife, who works on the admin side of the company, is happy to help facilitate that,” Jess said.
Her victory in Waikato involved high performance across several disciplines. Each apprentice had to submit details of a building project they had worked on and take part in a two-hour practical challenge to build a step stool before progressing to a site visit and interview.
The judges said she impressed them during her interview and displayed remarkable skill levels around the site.
“Jess is a highly impressive young person. Her building knowledge shone through in her interview, and she also showcased a great level of skill in the national practical competition where she scored very highly,” one judge said.
Another remarked “During her interview, it was clear that Jess has a very in-depth understanding of her project and she could speak confidently about the entire build process. Well done, Jess, you have a very bright future ahead of you.”
Judges were also impressed with the level of focus and technique she showed with her tools.
“She is very accurate in her work, shows excellent competency and her project was finished to an extremely high standard. At her site visit, Jess proved she was a well-rounded apprentice with a clear passion for the trades and a drive to perform. Jess is an impressive apprentice,” one of the judges added.
During the competition, Jess felt confident in all areas but was particularly proud of her diligence during the practical element.
“We had no spare materials, so my measurements had to be bang on – which was a lot of pressure, but I made sure to be careful. I would say that is one of my strong suits on site as well,” she said.
The Apprentice of the Year competition puts its contestants to the test and only the best truly rise to the challenge. As one of the finalists, Jess said it was a pleasure to test her skills in that fashion.
“The competition was a good example of how to build fast and accurately while working under pressure. Do not get me wrong, there is pressure on site, but you would normally get days or weeks not minutes and hours,” Jess said.
Despite not taking home the winner’s medal, Jess said she will look back on it with pride, as placing third is still a great achievement.
“I am pretty hard on myself and I always want to win, but the reality of it is that I cannot always win. At the time I was disappointed, but I took a step back and reflected that I was happy with my overall performance,” Jess concluded.