Thomas Forbes believes his drive to demonstrate initiative was one of the keys to him being awarded the first ever Apprentice of the Year title by Steel Construction New Zealand.
“I’m constantly focused on improving outcomes, such as decreasing fabrication time through different fabrication methods and procedures. I’m also always up for a new challenge. I am stoked to win the award and would like to thank Bob and Red Steel, and my family for everything they’ve done.”
The 24-year-old works for Napier-based steel fabricator Red Steel. He was presented with a trophy, certificate and $1,000 at the SCNZ AGM and conference in Napier in September.
Runner up Louie Lumampao of John Jones Steel received a highly commended award and $500.
Thomas says his father was his biggest influence to him getting into a trade.
“He worked in multiple trades, and I grew up tinkering with him on the seven or eight landrovers he owned. He was my main role model and the inspiration behind me having a trade career.”
After leaving school Thomas did a first year pre-trade course and then spent some time in the army, before being offered an apprenticeship at Red Steel, where he had completed work experience.
He finished his apprenticeship last year and plans to progress further in the industry.
“I’d like to do the welding supervisor course in the near future and long term maybe look at getting into a supervisor, foreman or project management type role. I’m definitely going to stay in the trade.”
The SCNZ Apprentice of the Year Award, was presented in association with Weldwell, and acknowledges people whose skills, drive and willingness to learn and work hard has helped them to achieve outstanding outcomes.
“It recognises well-rounded apprentices who demonstrate not only talent in steel fabrication, but display traits important to the industry – commitment, innovation and ability,” says former SCNZ manager, Alistair Fussell.
Red Steel workshop manager Alister Varcoe says that Thomas regularly impressed him with his ability to learn.
“Thomas rapidly became proficient at drawing interpretation and job planning. This, coupled with his exceptional ability to both fabricate and weld, allowed me to give Thomas the opportunity to work on projects traditionally reserved for long-serving tradesman. He was given an extremely long leash with these projects and it was not long before he separated himself from the crowd and became one of my go-to men for the difficult projects.”
The rigorous judging process spanned two months. Finalists were invited to a face-to-face interview with the four-person judging panel, after which they were put through their paces during a practical skills exercise.
“We had two excellent finalists that highlighted the impressive ability of apprentices within our industry. The quality of both of their practical exercises was extremely high, which made it particularly difficult for the judging panel to determine the overall winner,” says judging panel spokesman Grant Simpson of Weldwell.
The Award is part of SCNZ’s work to promote careers and training in the structural steel sector.
“Importantly, a steel structure is the product of a highly skilled team, and each team member is essential to the overall success of the project. The structural steel sector boasts a wide variety of careers, and each offers challenging and rewarding opportunities,” says Alistair.
Thomas Forbes says he has no hesitation recommending a career in the steel sector to other young people.
“I struggled a bit with maths and physics at school, but once I could put it into practical use in the real world, it just clicked. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and think the steel industry provides amazing career choices.”