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This new chippy is a grandma

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 30/12/2013
 Litichia Franklin
Emma Whittaker
NAILED IT: Litichia Franklin has made her life-long dream a reality by graduating from a building course.

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Not so long ago a female builder was unheard-of rather than just unusual. Luckily for Litichia Franklin times have changed.

She graduated with excellence this month from the New Zealand Management Academies' inaugural construction course.

The mother of five and grandmother of nine dreamed as a little girl of being a builder like her father.

"It's in the blood. I just love everything about building,"she says.

"I remember when I was little saying to dad ‘I want to be a builder like you when I grow up' and he said ‘No darling you can't because you're a girl'."

It has taken 30 years and a lot of hardship for the Onehunga resident to make her dream a reality.

She stopped going to school at the age of 12.

"My mum and dad bought my uniform for Tamaki College and three months later I burned it in the middle of the field with all my books and said ‘that's it, no more school'."

She spent time living on the streets of Glen Innes and was put into the Weymouth Girls Home.

"I was in and out of family courts. I didn't have a very good life."

At 16 she gave birth to twin boys and has spent most of her life raising children.

"A lot of my experience has been around children, building is totally the opposite end of the scale."

Six months ago she saw an advertisement for the construction course.

"I thought ‘I need to go out there and get me a job, I need something that is going to pay me top dollar'. I didn't want to be a cleaner and I didn't want to be working in an office and when I saw that ad I thought ‘that is exactly me'.

"I'll never forget the day I started the course, I was so scared. I was one of two girls and I remember the boys watching me and this other lady walking through the room and it was like ‘oh my god are you for real' but I proved myself, I proved I'm a good builder.

"In the building industry it's a man's world. It's going to be hard for me out there but I'm up for the challenge.

"I'm just so excited about my future."

In the new year she will need to gain an apprenticeship to become fully qualified.

Later she would like to work as a building inspector for the council.

The construction course is an entry level programme aimed at people who might have "dropped through the cracks", deputy campus principal Dr David Gatley says.

"In my 20-odd years in the education system in New Zealand I have seen a few females excel in this area and Litichia is no exception."

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- Central Leader

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