Apprenticeship opens doors for eager builder
Age no barrier for 64-year-old builderSARAH DUNN
Lynette Rillstone was more than 60 years old before she finally took the leap into becoming a building apprentice, but now that she has a job that she loves, every day is fun.
"I don't understand when people don't get passionate about building," she said. "All I want to do is work and build."
The 64-year-old's prior building experience was patchy but extensive. It included a stint as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a tutoring position on a renovations course in Motueka, a similar role as instructor for a "Women's Access Course" and time studying a building and carpentry course at NMIT.
Ms Rillstone's business "Lynette Rillstone Home Renovator and Decorator" was also an important part of her life for nearly 20 years.
"I always liked the renovation a bit more than the painting, but I didn't like to do too much without qualifications," she said. "Not that I was qualified for painting, but you just do it because you're hungry."
The change began when a younger friend signed up for an apprenticeship in 2010. Ms Rillstone was already acquainted with Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation representative Mark Bloom, so when she called him up to inquire about training, he was happy to enrol her in five preliminary papers to see how she went.
"I flew through them," she said. "I was like a duck in water. Even the paperwork, I really liked it. I just wanted to build."
She said she had initially put off pursuing a full apprenticeship because she thought the three-year commitment would drag, but to her surprise, the study went quickly. She spent the first two years working through her apprenticeship independently via her established company, and switched to work for Ross Jurgeleit in his company Plymouth Contracting around six months ago. She is expected to complete her qualifications early next year.
Ms Rillstone said she had learned to set physical boundaries for herself as she was not able to carry heavy objects as far as some of her colleagues. Her presence on the male-dominated building site has generated some surprise, but no discrimination.
"You get a lot of double takes and a second stare, an ‘Am I seeing what I'm seeing?' look, but they're actually pretty helpful mostly."
The jobs she liked the most were ones that included details such as pergolas, complicated remodelling work and plenty of "that how-does-it-go-together thing" that generated intellectual satisfaction.
Mr Jurgeleit said he was approached by the BCITO about a trainee who was looking for a job under "unusual circumstances" as they knew he was able to offer Ms Rillstone the kind of work that would let her fill the gaps in her experience. He said he was unfazed upon meeting her, saying she fitted in well with his team.
"There's not too many things she can't do. It's really only a physical difference and that's something you get with males too, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It's not always a level playing field."
Ms Rillstone said she wanted to continue working as long as she could, potentially slowing down as she grew older. She did not think it was likely that she would knock off at retirement age.
"When you're doing what you really love, it's not an effort. To me, work is a bit more like play."
- © Fairfax NZ News