'Keep Striving' - Women in Construction Q&A

07 Mar 2017

Larena McGregor is a qualified painter at Jeff Dermott Painting and Decorating in Christchurch. We talked to her about what inspired her to quit her full-time job in retail and become a tradie. 

pic of larena 

How did you get into painting?

My eldest son was doing an electrical apprenticeship and he suggested I should look into painting. I wanted a qualification behind me and it was physical activity where I could learn and work at the same time, which suited me. I guess I thought if my son could do it, so could I. I was really lucky because my pre-trade course at CPIT was part of the He Toki programme. So through that I was able to meet contacts and get work experience and then a full-time job at Deco NZ. I was the first person to start an apprenticeship there, but now they have nine more doing it. In the end my son and I got our tickets (qualifications) one month apart. We’re even working on the same site now! My youngest son is a hammerhand, too. For me, being Maori, getting that qualification was pretty rare. My sons’ father died a few years ago, and I think he’d be pretty proud of us. Being a single parent you only want the best for your kids, and if you get a trade you’ll never go wrong.


What do you enjoy about painting?

It’s more challenging. I like that every day you’re working on something different – one day you’re doing a ceiling and the next day you are working on something else. And you are responsible and in charge of your own work, and I really like that. It’s so much better than retail. I work for myself sometimes as well and being your own boss and in charge of your work teaches you heaps, which is really good.


Are there challenges working with so many men?

With a lot of men you work with, especially foremen, they can have a real powerhead thing going on, but I just ignore that and get on with my job. But there are also a lot of guys who will look out for you on-site.


What advice would you give women thinking about doing an apprenticeship?

You need to push yourself, be motivated and face your challenges. Stick with it and be disciplined and commit yourself. There were days when I thought I was over it and couldn’t do it, but two of my colleagues who were a really big part of my journey supported me. They would tell me to focus on the ticket, and that’s what kept me going. And if it wasn’t for that ticket I might not have lasted. I cried when I got it!

It’s three years and you’ll get good people as well as people that’ll try to block you, but you have to just keep aiming for that ticket.  Just keep striving and keep going. If you focus and want it badly enough, you’ll get there in the end.