IT is late in the afternoon in the middle of the week and most young people in Honiara are either still in school, at the bus stops heading home, congregating at the market stalls over loud African music or lumped up in a corner skimming Island Sun newspaper for vacant job opportunities.
For 19-year-old Leonard Pitu, this afternoon is different. Today Pitu is on a scaffold two metres off the ground stacking bricks. Armed with a level and mortar, he slowly adds a form to the structure; a brick wall that will soon be a two-storey apartment complex which will belong to Prestige International, at Ngossi.
The young lad worked tirelessly with a team of older, experienced construction workers and he didn’t seem to complain about the afternoon heat of the beating sun nor the task given to him.
Leonard Pitu works in the Building and Maintenance Department of Prestige International (SI).
Pitu did not undergo any technical form of construction training. “All of this is from look and learn”, he said when he came down for a short break and a quick interview.
Pitu shared his early experience of when he started working and his dependency on the patience of his supervisors to help him out.
“I was confused on how to read different units and it was a challenge for me as discrepancies in measurements cannot be afforded here at the construction site.
“Now I have a better understanding and technical experience on how to lay bricks for different buildings or structures.
“My duties here include mixing of cement, laying bricks and doing other small jobs assigned by my supervisors.
“After a week hands-on training with the team, I improved on my technical skills and knowledge.”
When asked why he wanted a constructions job instead of an office job like most youth would prefer, Leonard responded that “it was out of interest”.
Speaking of his former years, Pitu recalled, “I dropped out of high school, stayed back in the village and assisted in a business owned by my family, selling fish.”
Around the same time Pitu was helping out at the fish shop, he would often at times lend a hand with construction work.
Pitu then became fond of this trade and wanted to expand his knowledge and skills in building houses.
“I heard about [email protected] back in 2017 and then decided I would like to give it a shot. So I got registered in 2017.
“There are limited chances for a school dropout to find work so when I was given this chance with [email protected] internship programme, I had to make the most of it,” he pointed out.
Leonard revealed that when he was part of [email protected] he gained a lot of positive things that helped him get to where he is now.
“Being a high school dropout I suffered from depression and low esteem and could not relate well to people who are older than me,” he said.
“Most times I find it hard to speak my mind or contribute to conversations with older people, in any discussion or a mere conversation,” the young lad recalls.
“It was during one of the pre-employment training facilitated by the [email protected] program that I learnt about low self-esteem and how it can affect a person at work. So I always try to have a positive outlook on life and embrace challenges I faced at my work,” he said with a smile.
“Now I can easily talk to people as I have learnt a few tips from the training on how to communicate effectively,” he said.
Pitu also found that work ethic is another important trait a worker must possess.
“I am happy that I am aware of how I should conduct myself at work, to respect my supervisors and always ask questions if not sure of anything,” he confessed.
“Technical language was a barrier for me. Also because my colleagues are qualified and experienced, some mornings they would arrive and start working on their tasks and I would just sit around waiting for them to assign me a task.
“Eventually, I guess my boss noticed my awkward situations so he arranged a social gathering and we all came together, ate and talked. After that, we were able to get along pretty well and I enjoyed working with them.
“I have enjoyed my time here and happy to find out that I will continue my internship with the Building and Maintenance Department, which eventually am a permanent employee now,” he said.
Mr Geoff Kaka, Managing Director for the Prestige International, commends the young lad’s effort and contribution to the new construction project.
Kaka believes that every young person who comes to work as an employee, regardless of what age should magnify the quality they bring with them.
“You are either a leader; a doer; or a follower” is one of Mr Kaka’s quotes which he made sure to make emphasis on.
He said, “I know Leonard came to work here as a way to culture his interest among the experienced construction workers and because of his hard work and the attitude to accept correction supplemented by his eagerness to learn, I think in the long run Leonard can contribute more to the company.”
BY RUTH AMOS