Trainee carpenter reaching for the stars

Last year Sulata Naomi Urima went through all the courses offered at the Don Bosco Technical College and settled on the carpentry and joinery course.

The Vailoa Faleata villager knew her choice came with a lot of risk, as she is the only girl in the programme and opportunities in the workforce could be scarce, as employers would most likely choose a male colleague over her.

But that didn’t stop her from choosing the course and she is determined to make the best of her learning experience.

"Last year I had the chance to go around to all the different departments in order to make up my mind on what course I will dedicate my last two years to but I have selected this course in order to find a job and to use it as a talent,” she told the Samoa Observer.

“Every time in this department I am required to work, but I can also have time to relax if I know I am unwell.

"We are never being forced to do anything, I think that has motivated me to be in this course. “I can also apply my creativity and experience, I am able to use the waste materials from what we're making to do something else, instead of throwing it away. 

And she is already enjoying the course, seeing how she has learnt to use waste material from her woodwork to create something else.

“There are certain ways that I can use waste materials to create something useful.”

Looking around at the workshop that is her classroom and as an example she picks timber and its various uses.

"For instance, when we are doing our work, there are waste materials that we get from it,” she added.

“Like when we use timber, there is waste such as wood dust, and there are timbers that are unused after we measure the exact size of the timber that we want.

“I can use those wasted materials to build a fence for my family's garden, the wood dust is really useful for planting trees.”

And while she is enjoying herself, she is mindful of how tough competition can become for carpentry jobs in the workforce, especially when she is competing against male colleagues with the same experience. 

"The challenge for me is that when there is a vacancy, the opportunity will go to the boys first but as of now our teachers are now prioritising me as I am the first female to be in construction. 

“With the opportunity they have given me, I have been on every machine that's in this room, the big ones and also the small ones.”

And Sulata appears to be gone through her baptism of fire, when it comes to using heavy machinery, but there are others that she still needs getting accustomed to.

"I only fear the semi-automatic multi-purpose wood-working machine as you can't stop it once it's on,” she said. 

“You can easily get injured as the machine itself is very dangerous. If I am not well prepared and if our teachers fail to tell me what I should do and how I should handle the machine, then I don't think I can overcome it."

Nevertheless, every day comes with its challenges as well as opportunities, which she wouldn’t mind sharing with peers.

"I want to challenge the ladies that they can become carpenters, if there's a will there's a way,” she says.

“If ever they choose this course, I just hope they selected it because it's what they're passionate about and what they want to pursue, and not because someone told them that it is a great course, or not because they're following someone. 

“You have to be yourself and know yourself in order to be in the right place.”

Sulata has two more years to go before she completes her carpentry and joinery course at the Don Bosco Technical College.

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