Three Southlanders are packing their tools and heading to Brazil after qualifying for the international WorldSkills competition in August.
The three SIT trade graduates are part of a team of 15 New Zealanders, the Tool Blacks, representing the country at the event which will involve teams from 72 countries competing in different trade categories.
The New Zealand team was announced at a ceremony in Auckland this week. The competition is known as the trade equivalent of the Olympics for people under 24. About 1300 competitors will be at the event.
Apprentice joiner Michael Good, apprentice maintenance engineer Nick Bastiaansen and plumber Adam de Pass will represent Southland on the international stage.
WorldSkills Southland chairperson Glenys McKenzie said the Otago and Southland regions were punching above their weight on a national level.
"We're fairly remote from the rest of the world and the boys don't get much competition in trades," she said.
New Zealand's Tool Blacks will compete in all sorts of trades, from aircraft maintenance to hairdressing.
Although New Zealand will only be represented in 15 categories, the competition includes more than 45 trade skills.
The competition was an opportunity for Southland to set a benchmark for its trade training, McKenzie said.
"We want to use it to raise the profile of trade training. It's not a second class occupation, it's not something you do if you can't do anything else. University isn't for everyone and there's very good opportunities career-wise in trade training. Where else do you get paid to learn?"
Being involved in the competition taught young trades people important skills that help them with their work, she said. "It builds self confidence for the competitor and they have tangible evidence of their ability and skills set. They have to learn to set goals and work towards achieving something," she said.
Nick Bastiaansen from Gore is an apprentice maintenance engineer at Fonterra and after winning the national WorldSkills competition in his area, will be heading to Brazil in August.
Bastiaansen, 22, said he was more nervous than excited but was looking forward to the competition.
"It'll be difficult for me because I'm only 4500 hours into my apprenticeship out of 8000 hours. I will be up against people who have done more and maybe even have finished," he said.
Being part of the competition meant a lot to Bastiaansen, and he had been taking his training very seriously.
His working hours contribute to his training, but he also works outside work hours to make sure he has a full range of skills.
"I get to represent New Zealand, my company and my family. It is overwhelming and scary at the same time. I hope to at a minimum get a medallion of excellence which is awarded to the top 10 per cent."
He hopes to redeem himself at the international competition after losing to the Australian competitor at the WorldSkills Oceania competition in April.
Invercargill-based Michael Good is an apprentice joiner at Peter Howley Joinery and has never left the country.
After winning the national WorldSkills competition in his category, Good's first overseas trip will be to the international WorldSkills competition in Brazil.
The 21-year-old has been putting in extra hours every week to learn the techniques necessary for the competition.
"It's a real old-school technique that we don't do at work, so I go to the polytech two hours after work every night. You've got to put the hours in," he said.
Good is aiming high - he wants to come back from Brazil with a medal.
At the Oceania competition in April, he got to see the calibre of the international competitors.
"It was good to see what I was up against, and the Malaysian guy in particular was almost freakishly good, I learnt a lot," he said.
ADAM dE PASS
Plumber Adam de Pass, 22, won at the national and Oceania WorldSkills competitions and is now looking forward to heading to Brazil.
He has been working at Jackson Plumbing for the last six years and said he wants to bring home a medal.
"It's life experience I'm never going to forget. I'm representing New Zealand in plumbing, of all things."
There will be 40 other people competing in the plumbing category at the international competition.
He previously competed at the national competition in 2012, and was disappointed to come in fourth.
"It's something you're going to want on your CV, it shows good work ethic and that you're committed outside work hours," he said.