As some may know, many members of the Mercury Bay Golf Club volunteer their time as a ‘working bee’ by helping out when it comes to onsite maintenance tasks and DIY (do it yourself) jobs. A dedicated trio who turns up every Thursday morning and deserve to be acknowledged is Steve Geach and his “apprentices” Jakob Topp and Kieran Clayton.
Steve, who has since retired from his previous occupation as a design technology teacher in Auckland to settle in Whitianga 4 years ago, decided to take these two handymen from ‘Learning Support’ under his wing, for them to gain work experience.
“One of the first jobs we ever did was fix a picket fence,” says Steve. The young men, 20- year-old Jakob, who left Mercury Bay Area School (MBAS) 2 years ago, and 21-yearold Kieran, who is in his last year of being a student at MBAS, have massively progressed in their building capabilities, taking on and completing much more challenging projects such as upgrading a bar front and building a trophy cabinet. The wood for the cabinet was made from Matai which was generously donated by club member, James Duncan, and the glass shelves were donated by ‘Worthy Windows & Doors’, while some materials for the bar front were donated by Steve himself. “The great thing about these projects is that it didn’t cost the club in labour, with only a few expenses towards materials, many of which were donated. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn while also helping businesses and community clubs at the same time.” During the process of restoring and bringing these structures to life, Jakob and Kieran have learnt a plethora of ‘tradie’ tricks and techniques such as sanding, polishing, drilling, screwing screws in, oiling and knowing how to measure accurately. In accordance with their working bee duties, they have learnt a lot about garden maintenance and water blasting among many other skills. These two young men also dedicate their Tuesday’s to ‘Charity Day’ and with Steve, Kieran and Jakob collect Whitianga Social Services rubbish and do local deliveries for those in need.
“Despite starting the programme this year, Jakob has been working alongside me for 4 years now as I have been working with Learning Support since first arriving in town. Karen Johansen of the Learning Support Centre has done a wonderful job in paying attention to what each student takes an interest in, which is how I got to know Jakob.” Over the years, Jakob has proven to be a ‘jack of all trades’, from having jobs in PlaceMakers, Peninsula Scaffolding, roadside construction and being a painter to building a workshop, sleepout and a gazebo. “Jakob is very advanced. If I show him how to do something, he’ll do it exactly. Kieran has also become a great builder, being particularly good at drilling and even possibly too good at painting as he tends to also paint where he doesn’t need to,” laughs Steve.
Not only have the two apprentices improved with their building skills, but also in their social development. “It’s great to be able to get them out of the house and conversing with people, I’ve noticed how much more confident each has become. Smoko has been particularly great for Kieran and Jakob as there’s always lots of back and forth banter and everyone loves having them there. They’re great fun to have around.”
When asking the keen builders what the favourite aspect of their work experience is, Jakob replies that he “enjoys being able to help out” the most, while Kieran appreciates “feeling a sense of achievement.” He admits, with a cheeky grin, that ‘smoko’ is the highlight of his day.
“As a teacher, my favourite moments are when my students finally get it. It’s just the most rewarding feeling when you see them improve more and more,” says Steve. “Plus I love hanging out with these two, they’re a lot of fun and they’re my buddies.”
Pictured is Steve Geach, Jakob Topp and Keiran Clayton.