Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year competition: Real-life potential shines through

Published 14 November 2022
Nita Reihana entered the aquatics sector as a rookie lifeguard with no experience or qualifications, but her managers soon spotted her talent and hard work, and quickly put her on a leadership track.

Based at the Makino Aquatic Centre in Feilding, Nita is one of three candidates for the 2022 Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year. This award, now in its seventh year, goes to a highly skilled individual with commitment, passion and diligence, who is working to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, through the medium of active recreation, leisure or entertainment.

“I had been a solo mum and when my daughter was seven years old I decided to get back into the workforce,” Nita says. “A fixed term position for lifeguard became available so I took the opportunity to apply. “

Within three months, Nita became a permanent staff member, with the added responsibility of leading some shifts. She also worked her way through a number of work-based learning qualifications, include the Te Mahi Ako Aquatics Level 3 certificate, and the Sport and Leisure Operations programme.

Before Nita’s first year was over, the job of assistant operations supervisor came up and her colleagues encouraged her to apply.

“On paper I had very few of the qualifications, and nowhere near the experience, they were asking for. However, I did my interview and was given the good news that they were very impressed by the way I had conducted myself, and they offered me the job there and then.”

After she had settled into the supervisor role, Nita decided to enrol in the Te Mahi Ako Senior Pool Lifeguard apprenticeship. The qualification helped to solidify and recognise her existing skills and knowledge, but it also gave her new insights, and inspired her to keep on improving the customer experience at the pool.

Manager Sharon Gates says Nita has taken on every learning opportunity in her time in the industry, and has used the apprenticeship to broaden her perspective.  

“She has thrived on the project work which enabled her to experience different opportunities and thought processes. Her interactions with customers and the Makino team have seen her grow in confidence and understanding.”

Nita says she can’t picture herself working in any other sector.

“I enjoy watching the kids living their best moments in the water and achieving something that makes them smile ear-to-ear. I love watching the elderly come in and act like little school kids again and giggle and move in ways they never thought they would be able to again.

“You walk away each day knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life. It is the most fulfilling feeling.”


About the Apprentice of the Year competition

The Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year will be announced in November at the Recreation Aotearoa Awards. Check out our earlier articles on the other two finalists, Tim and Alex!

Media contact: Esther McLaren | esther@skillsactive.org.nz | 021 195 5127

Skills Active Aotearoa Group is a not-for-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, supporting capability development in te ahumahi ā-rēhia: the active recreation, leisure, entertainment and events sectors.

Te Mahi Ako is part of the Skills Active group, and supports individuals to develop themselves through real-life learning within businesses, iwi and communities.