Forging a Steel Work Ethic

February 26, 2021

The industry insight that EIT Tairawhiti’s courses provide, welded with a strong work ethic can lead to a bright future. 

Eighteen-year-old Theo Grzeda is an example of this, as an engineering graduate who has used EIT as a tool to gain insight into the profession that he now works in. 

Theo is currently an apprentice for Universal Engineering in Gisborne and completed the NZ Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Level 3) course in 2018-2019. 

He has a robust work ethic, and an interest in metal, which was inherited from his late father Jan Grzeda. 

Jan passed away over three years ago, when Theo was 14 years old. 

Before Jan passed, he shared stories with his son about his interest in working with steel, woodwork and metal. He was a qualified Arborist by trade  

“With Dad telling me these stories, and being unwell, I went on to YouTube to search ideas of something that we could do together, and I found blacksmithing,” says Theo. 

“If he recovered, we were planning to go into building a forge. But that didn’t happen.” 

After Jan passed, Theo still had a desire to work with metal, particularly metal sculptures. 

He realised that he needed to learn about ‘hot work’ – how to weld metal, and entered a six-week Welding Short Course at EIT Tairāwhiti. 

“I completed the hot work course, which also introduced me to engineering. 

“I looked into studying EIT’s level 3 engineering course, and also had some work experience at Universal Engineering here in Gisborne.” 

Theo was offered an apprenticeship at Universal Engineering but wanted to learn more about the industry before taking up the position. 

“I turned down the apprenticeship to study and learn more about the trade first. 

“I wanted more information of what engineering was like, and to see if it was what I wanted to do. 

“I didn’t want to disappoint them (Universal Engineering) by taking up the apprenticeship, and then finding out perhaps only weeks into the job that I didn’t want to do it. 

“I know how hard it is to run a business. I also started a small beekeeping business when I was younger, so I’ve experienced how frustrating it can be at times, in dealing with workers. I didn’t want to muck them around.” 

Theo completed the one-year engineering course and says it was the right choice for him, in helping to make his decision. 

“I came to EIT for the purpose of learning what the industry was like, and I believe that the level 3 course fulfilled that. 

“It covered all of the basics. This course takes a year off your apprenticeship. I have three years remaining.” 

Theo believes that his former tutors – Shane Cameron, John Baynes and Luke Batten – are a large part of the success of the engineering course at EIT Tairāwhiti. 

“The tutors are awesome and have done an amazing job,” says Theo. 

“They’re patient and they want to see young people succeed. 

“For anyone wanting to do engineering, perhaps look at doing a few days of work experience first. 

“Get a feel of what it’s like and then look into doing the level 3 engineering course. 

“But you’ve got to want to learn. The team here put so much hard work and effort into it.” 

It’s obvious to see that Theo’s values from his Mum and Dad, and his family heritage have been instrumental in his success. 

“My Dad was Polish and he raised us with the values that he was raised with. 

“Everyday Dad would tell us to thank Mum for our dinner or for a lovely day. The customs of hard work and gratitude have always been part of our life. 

“When Dad passed I had to grow up fast. In some ways it’s been hard, but I’ve learnt a lot too.” 

Theo has some ‘smiling words’ on how he thinks his Dad may feel about his career and learning journey. 

“Dad was always a sharp welder, but I believe I’m better than him now and he would have admired that.  

But giggling, Theo said, “he’d be in the shed every day trying to get better.”