Aimee Withington
Publish Date: Thursday, 2 November 2023
Aimee Withington


#SIT Invercargill #Student Profile #Joinery

Aimee Withington originally trained at SIT to become a chef, but the work wasn’t a good fit for her. After some time in the workforce, she returned to SIT to retrain in Joinery and this time it’s a perfect fit. “I’m absolutely loving it,” Aimee says.

Aimee, who was born and raised in Invercargill, completed secondary school and entered into Cookery training at SIT. She graduated and after six months of working in the restaurant industry Aimee came to the realisation she wasn’t enjoying the seasonal nature of the work. “I didn’t like it, it was very quiet sometimes. I needed more of a challenge.”

Taking a full-time role with a local supermarket, meant she was busier and gaining more work hours but Aimee knew it was only a temporary fix. “I didn’t want to carry on with it, I knew I didn’t want to do it forever,” she explained. 

Aimee turned to her friends for guidance, who discovered she liked making things. They encouraged her to enrol at SIT in the New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Level 3) Joinery Strand. “My friends said, ‘you’ve got nothing to lose’”. Although she had the odd ‘what if I’ve made the wrong decision’ moment, it turns out Aimee’s friends gave her great advice; taking to Joinery ‘like a duck to water’, she thrived.  

Aimee entered the programme with no preconceived ideas; she was keen to learn the practical, woodwork component of the course. Overall, she had plenty of praise for the whole experience. “The workshop is brilliant!”, as well as the tutors, “Phil is lovely, Lee’s lovely, they’re absolute godsends to SIT, they put so much effort in. They’re there because they want the students to learn.”

Aimee said the tutors were such a positive influence, and imparted their passion for woodwork into the students. “It’s a cool environment if everyone wants to be there and wants to get on. A hundred percent, it helped the students to have a good attitude.”

As expected, Aimee really enjoyed “the whole hands-on building stuff” emphasis of the course, surprising herself with how much she could achieve when she put in the effort. “You spend that extra time, doing ten more minutes sanding. You wanted the tutors to be proud, I wanted to have pride in my work and the things I made.” Aimee felt having pride in her work was something that would carry on throughout the rest of her life. “You always want to make sure everything you do is to a good standard,” she added.

The course highlight was having a great rapport with the tutors, Phil Johnstone and Lee Park. “They’re so unassuming. There was great banter; they come up with the best stuff,” Aimee laughed.

During the programme, Aimee’s biggest challenge was “not going overboard with perfectionism” on each item she built. Instead of rushing to get projects done quickly, she learned “to slow it down and do it well”, hoping to avoid “realising you’d missed a step and having to go through and repeat it”. The balance between perfection and speed was something to juggle on each project, Aimee explains.

Winning the Norman and Barbara Clearwater Joinery Award at the completion of her qualification in 2022, Aimee says “the high achiever award was a shock, to find out I’d topped the class. It shows if I put in the work, in the effort, what I am capable of, when I put my mind to it, what I can achieve.”

Aimee has some beautiful furniture to show for her year’s work. She is most proud of the sea chest, macrocarpa bedside cabinets, a TV cabinet and an outdoor table.  There was even sufficient time at the end of the year to complete an extra project which the tutors gave Aimee guidance on. “I made an ammo cabinet for Dad,” she says. “It was great prep for the workforce, you’ve got a client.”

Now completing a Joinery apprenticeship with Poole’s Joinery Invercargill, Aimee is loving life. Her goal is “to get qualified, be a sponge, learn as much as possible and then see where it takes me in the world.”

In her spare time Aimee is involved in her community. She’s a Guide Leader. She volunteers for the Southland Motorcycle Club at Teretonga, and is a 10-year member of the Invercargill Target Rifle Club. That community mindedness is apparent in her gaining new skills; even being able to carry the knowledge to help other people learn is something that interests her.

“Sometimes life throws curve balls at you, you’ve just got to make the most of it. I’m having a ball,“ she says, adding she is comfortable working in a trade which  traditionally employed males. “It just shows you that girls can do male jobs.”

Aimee believes she has learned some “serious skills” to help establish her career. With each project she completed in SIT’s Joinery programme, she says “you saw the progression of your skills”, and describes the perfect balance she wanted to achieve:  “you want it to push you enough so you’re out of your comfort zone, but not be so uncomfortable, that it’s overwhelming.”  

“I absolutely have a future in Joinery,” says Aimee. “I now have a much greater awareness of my own abilities and capabilities.”