Flight attendant turns electrical engineer

17:38, Nov 10 2013

A Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) student has been "overwhelmed" by her first-ever award win.

Joy Lalahi, 30, who is studying electrical engineering at CPIT, has won the inaugural top female trades student award at the annual Trades Innovation Institute celebration of achievement.

Winning the award was a "pretty big deal" for Lalahi, who said being an adult student was daunting for someone who had left high school 13 years ago.

It had been a round-about journey to studying a trade, she said.

Since leaving high school in 2000, she had worked in customer services, as an English tutor and a flight attendant, and has been raised two sons, now aged 7 and 11, as a single mother.

Inspiration to train as an electrician came from a sense of practicality ingrained by her father, who taught her trade skills were a valuable asset.


"I helped to build a house in Tonga but did not know anything about electrical [trades] so I thought I should learn about it."

Studying had been a challenge, particularly juggling studying and caring for her two sons, but Lalahi said she was lucky to have support from family and CPIT staff.

Working in an industry full of men had its benefits, she said.

"I think it's a bit more casual and laid back because it's male dominated."

Lalahi, who had been invited to speak at CPIT to share her experiences, said she would like to be a role model for other women.

As for her future and career in electrical studies, she had yet to figure out what her forte was.

The Press