Changing Tack with Trade Wind

April 10, 2018

Seeking a new career path, Te Cohney Whitehouse was awarded a Te Ara o Takitimu scholarship to study electrical engineering at EIT.

A partnership between Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and EIT, Te Ara o Takitimu supports Māori and Pasifika aged between 16 and 40 into trades training.

The scheme has achieved that for Te Cohney.  In late December, he was offered an apprenticeship at Unison, where he is now training as a lines mechanic while completing level three certificate studies at EIT.

Te Cohney is Ngāti Kahungunu and, as a youngster growing up in Wairoa, he attended tangi and joined in hapū celebrations at Taihoa marae. 

He attended Wairoa College before his family moved to Auckland, and he returned with them when they relocated back to Hawke’s Bay.

Qualifying as a plasterer, Te Cohney, and his partner Tessa Dodge settled into life in Taradale.   However, he started to feel that a change in career path was long overdue.

 “I wanted to go in a totally different direction while still working in the trades.  Lee Kershaw, the coordinator For Te Ara o Takitimu, was key to me gaining the scholarship.

“It was quite daunting,” he says of starting at EIT as a mature student mid-last year.  “I’d been out of school 12 years and I didn’t like the thought of going back.”

While he found it quite hard “to turn the brain back on” and to sit in a classroom rather than working outdoors, he soon adjusted to student life. 

“I’m the youngest of the oldest on campus,” he jokes.

Having Harley Benton as his tutor helped ease the move back into learning. 

“He’s a good teacher, and he makes the programme a lot more interesting.  A fair few of my classmates are straight out of school and have never seen the working world as such.  Harley makes the transition relatively easy.”

A friend alerted Te Cohney to the opportunity for an apprenticeship at Unison in September.

“It’s a new initiative,” he explains.  “They were taking on 10 to 12 people to train as line mechanics.  I had two interviews after my cv was accepted and I received my contract on 23 December – a nice early Christmas present.”

Electrical engineering students attend EIT classes on Wednesday through Friday.  However, Te Cohney was given approval to attend on Fridays only and he does much of the classwork as well as assessments in his own time.

Working full-time while studying has been challenging, he says, and he’s looking forward to finishing the study programme in mid-April. 

But he doesn’t doubt that he’s made the right decision.

“EIT,” he says, “gave me the opportunity to move in a different direction.”