When Tamati Mcleod was studying at Manukau Institute of Technology more than a decade ago, his class of 60 tradies-to-be were gearing up for their future as building apprentices. But the reality of finding a company to take on an apprentice ended up being quite a difficult process, with word-of-mouth finally securing a position for Mcleod.  

However many of his classmates weren’t so lucky, with only five pursuing their careers as builders. And it was a statistic that didn’t sit right with him.  

“I had been raised with a lot of resilience, so even when I got turned away, I’d continue to move forward, from site to site. But when I found out that so many had moved onto other things, I felt I had to do something about it. I knew I had the social capabilities and a good brain, so I started considering something like LinkedIn but for trades and incorporating a geomap.” 

And now, ten years after McLeod had his first idea about how he could help to connect tradies looking for work and the employers who need them, the beta site of Let’s Get Building is about ready to go live. Tradies (of all experience levels) will be able to select their location on a map and upload a CV, or apply for available jobs that have been loaded by various companies. And companies will be able to view candidates on the map, and get in touch with them directly if they have a job they might be interested in. 

To get to this point McLeod knows he has been on quite the journey, but it’s only when he looks back on it that he realises how far he has come – and all the hurdles he had along the way.  

“I remember I started talking to some entrepreneurs about how to move into the digital space but there didn’t seem to be a lot of opportunities for a young Māori lad who wanted to take on the startup space. I had to do it myself. And that was when a business development coach told me I needed to move into sales so I could learn to be more of a ‘talker’.” 

At 24, McLeod left the building industry and became a sales rep for a courier company which was very much focused on ‘numbers’ and ‘sales scripts’. However in true McLeod style, he succeeded by not following the scripts and focusing more on the customer service/relationship building aspect. He was doing well, but deep down he knew this type of sales wasn’t going to be a long term gig and it was time to call it a day.

“In my last couple of days there I sent out an email to everyone to say goodbye and to also let them know why I was leaving – to focus on Let’s Get Building. I explained a bit about what I was trying to achieve, and then didn’t think much of it. But somehow the email got into the hands of AEG Power Tools and their management team got in touch with me,” explains McLeod. 

After an initial chat, McLeod’s passion for the trade industry was clearly evident to the AEG team and they snapped him up to come on board, not only as a power tool sales rep, but as someone to connect with the tradespeople of tomorrow, through the various trade schools in Auckland. And most importantly, they wanted to support his plan for Let’s Get Building. 

“They wanted me to use their vehicles and my communication skills to network and work alongside these training institutions. I just recently have been promoted to the role of National Commercial Account Manager, which means I will soon be visiting every major trade school in the country where I can promote the Let’s Get Building app as well.”  

Tamati Mcleod.

And thanks to Kōkiri, a Māori-led startup programme, McLeod is able to encourage every student to jump on it as soon as they are ready to find work, a stage he knows he wouldn’t be at right now without the twelve week accelerator.  

“I had been talking to my aunty about Let’s Get Building and she told me about Kōkiri, then I saw it was a day away from closing! So my partner and I put together all the information/data I had at the time and threw it into the application form. A week later, I found out I was shortlisted, and then that I had been accepted to the 2022 intake.”

One of the things McLeod found most helpful from the programme was the continuous repetition of what the business is. For years he had found it hard to articulate exactly what Let’s Get Building is, and he now understands that this is key for gaining support from the right people. He also admits to dropping a lot of his pride and stubbornness, which was hard for someone who had relied on those attributes to get him to where he was in life. 

“We did a lot of listening and learning from speakers and business mentors who would be giving you strategies and ideas for moving forward. And I realised I would miss out on the lesson if I kept thinking it was just people trying to tell me what to do. This was a big learning curve for me.”  

Now, with the launch mere weeks away, McLeod is ready for the world to see what he has been working on. And if the initial reactions from those who have already seen the app is anything to go by, 2023 will be life changing for Let’s Get Building, McLeod and those using the tool to help find employment or employees.

Story by Erin Harrison. In partnership with Kōkiri.

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