Training Takes Hollie Through the Civil Construction Ranks

Kirste Floyd Civil, News, Ultimit / Women in Infrastructure

When Hollie Atarau was 17, she started at Bay of Plenty’s Waiotahi Contractors as a receptionist.

25 years later she is now the Waiotahi’s quality and environmental advisor, thanks to an unbeatable combination of hard work and good training, through Connexis.

In fact, Hollie was one of the first people in New Zealand to complete a brand new qualification in infrastructure works contract management when it was launched by Connexis (then known as Infratrain) in the mid 2000s.

It’s just one of the training courses and qualifications Hollie has completed on her career path to date. Others include a NZ Certificate in Civil Infrastructure – Introductory Skills, followed by a supplementary credit programme, and then an NZ Certificate in Civil Infrastructure – Health, Safety and Environment.

The qualifications have followed Hollie’s professional progress from receptionist to contracts clerk, to contract administrator, becoming more involved in contracts management before taking on her current role.

“I just got more and more responsibilities as time went by. I also just really enjoy studying,” Hollie says of how she has used training to help her career progression.  “Plus, it gives you the credentials that back up your knowledge and experience. It’s good to have a piece of paper behind it all.”

Hollie is also enthusiastic about and supportive of other young women considering roles in infrastructure companies like Waiotahi. She took part in the company’s Connexis Girls with Hi-Vis® (GWHV) event in 2023 helping female high school students from around Bay of Plenty try their hand at some civil construction skills and chatting about career possibilities.

A key part of that, she says, is helping female job seekers realise the full scope of jobs available in industries like civil construction – and that it’s not all driving diggers and intense physical labour.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a digger driver or a truck driver, but there are other options too, like surveying or finance. There are lots of different paths you can go down.

“If you’re interested just contact a local civil construction company and let them know you’re interested. Take any role that you’re offered and go from there. Work your way up.

“There’s nothing better than getting experience from the ground up. You get to know how everything works together.”

Hollie’s days as Waiotahi’s quality and environmental advisor are always busy and varied.

“I help out the project managers a lot, developing contract management plans. And I take care of all the compliance of our consent conditions, making sure we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing and sending off all our compliance information to the regional council.

“I’m also secretary for the board of directors for Waiotahi so I get involved in some of the governance for the company, and I make sure all our management systems meet our ISO certifications.

“I really like developing systems and implementing them. I’m always looking for ways to improve our business. I’m not out there physically making money, so I like to look at ways that I can implement systems and processes that save the company money.”

One of Hollie’s career highlights to date was receiving a highly commended in the Excellence in Construction Administration category of the 2022 National Association of Women in Construction Excellence Awards. “That was a pretty proud moment.”

But Hollie is also keen to point out, particularly to other women considering an infrastructure career that the job has helped in other areas of her life.

“The money is quite good. That’s a good thing to know if you’re thinking about it as a job. For example, I’m a solo mum and it’s allowed me to buy my own home and support my son.”

The family-focused environment at Waiotahi is another aspect of her job that Hollie loves.

“Everyone here really cares about each other. If I need to do something like go to my son’s school or take time off during the school holidays, I’m really supported.”

Her advice for others considering a job in civil construction is to “just do it”.

“You can earn while you’re getting qualifications and you have the support of all the workmates around you. They’re there when you have questions and are trying to get your assignments done.”