August 2021


26 Jul 2021, News, PAC

Conrad Kotze turned to building after struggling to break into the New Zealand job market. Two years later, he’s been crowned Apprentice of the Month twice and is thriving in the industry

Four years ago, Conrad left his job as a diamond specialist in South Africa and moved to New Zealand with his wife, who got a job as a teacher.

After hundreds of unsuccessful job applications, Conrad was at a dead-end when his luck finally turned. Someone at his wife’s school knew a man who gave Conrad a few weeks’ work as a general labourer, a stint which turned into an apprenticeship with Carterton builder Jacob Aperloo.

Already in the second year of his apprenticeship, Conrad admits he never pictured himself on the tools, but is enjoying his work and has taken his new life in his stride – winning two Apprentice of the Month awards in the process!

“I enjoy gibbing, because it’s not super complicated and you can see quick progress, but I also love the challenge of the more delicate, nitty-gritty type of work. We recently needed to slightly alter some shiplap cladding to fit an awkward space, and it’s rewarding to make it look like it wasn’t altered, but you know it was.”

Conrad works closely with his boss, who, at the age of 64, has been building most of his life and is a true jack of all trades.

“Jacob does it all – from cabinetry to painting to trusses – and we’re one-on-one, so I’m learning heaps. It’s challenging but also really valuable, as apparently apprentices on bigger crews sometimes only learn one thing.”

This has led him to some interesting projects, including building double trusses from scratch. Fully engineered and made from 200x45mm macrocarpa wood to span 6m, it’s not a skill most builders these days have, or at least don’t use very often.

While Netherlands-native Jacob and Conrad have both made New Zealand their home, it doesn’t mean they are on the same page with everything. Their cultural differences have led to some interesting challenges, but Conrad says his boss is bringing the best out of him.

“Communication can be difficult at times, and I don’t mean speaking English! I needed to learn that each of us thinks differently, but he’s a brilliant person and problem solver. Where I see problems, he sees solutions.”

Jacob isn’t the only character setting an example for and working with Conrad – he is completing his studies at BCITO under the tutelage of ex-military man Peter van der Veen, who understands Conrad and pushes him to be the best he can be.

“He was also an adult apprentice and it’s great to work with someone who understands what it’s like,” explains Conrad.

“I’ve learned that an apprenticeship is a partnership between you and your trainer. As apprentices, we need to show trainers we’re willing to learn, and we need to push them to push us.”


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