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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

6 mins ago

Teresa Lamont pilot retrains after job loss due to Covid.

“I went from zero experience to full-time work until at least Christmas.”

Teresa Lamont found herself at a crossroads when she was stood down due to Covid-19. A pilot in New Zealand (NZ) for 12-years, she had just completed training for JetStar Australia in Singapore and was about to move to Aus when COVID-19 rolled around the world. With the borders shutting down and lockdown looming, she made it back to New Zealand with four days to spare. 

Teresa spent her lockdown in Auckland with her parents. Still technically employed, she was unable to receive the wage subsidy from NZ or Aus. She spent months wondering what the next step would be. That’s when she received an email from the union NZALPA with a list of contractors looking for staff and a list of agricultural training course providers.

Taratahi, with its free room, board and a 6-week training opportunity in ag contracting piqued her interest. 

“I’ve always been outdoorsy, and I figured I was used to flying a plane, I could learn how to drive other types of machinery.” 

Teresa moved to Masterton on September 14 and completed the four-week course with flying colours. 

“I had a good, experienced trainer who was passionate about the industry. He said I picked it up quickly and even gave me plenty of opportunities to help coach my fellow students which was a consolidation on what I was learning.” She laughs and says, “I didn’t expect my experience as a flight instructor to come in so handy, but it did!” 

During the first four-weeks of the course, Teresa learned about types of tractors, attachments and how they were used, completing her W/T/R/F endorsements along the way. During this time her course invested time driving an excavator on tracks, front end loader, vibrating roller, and fork hoist. 

The course had been specifically designed in conjunction with the help of local contractor companies, who provided a list of skills, and things they’d like new industry members to know about the job. 

With this information on board, Teresa had plenty of opportunity to put her knowledge to practical use. “Not only were we learning about the machinery, but we went to a farm next door and did actual work, which was useful. We would also use brand new demonstrator tractors from local retailers in Masterton who were all supportive of us.”

Following the four-week training, the course wrapped up with two-weeks of work experience. 

Taratahi provided a list of contacts for the class. “They reduced all barriers for us to work. It helped that our trainer was well-regarded and known in the industry so it wasn’t a total cold-call.” 

Teresa reached out to T Kershaw Contracting. After two-weeks of work experience, she quickly landed a job with the same company. 

“They are really great bosses. On the first day of actual work, I drove a telehandler to a job over a hill and down a windy valley road. It was like being thrown in the deep end. I thought, “Holy crap! But they trusted I could do it and I just got on and did it.” 

“I now have a contract until December, but skills and confidence that I can take anywhere, really. There are a lot of parallels to flying. Long hours take some getting used to but it’s nice to be outside. Hopefully I can fly one day but until then, this isn’t a bad gig. It’s an adventure at the very least.”