All he wanted to do was change his school subjects. Now Kaiya Hape, 17, is a fulltime saddlery apprentice at Easts Outdoor Work and Leisure — the only saddlery apprentice on the East Coast thanks to the Licence to Work (LTW), a work-readiness programme designed to bridge the gap between youth and employment.

Kaiya graduated from LTW in October 2018 and had impressed  Easts Dean Cook and his wife Teresa so much that they offered him paid part-time summer work. By the time the new school year rolled round, the offer of forgoing his last year of school to become a fulltime saddlery apprentice was made. Kaiya was over the moon. “I didn’t really like school and this is mean. It’s really different — I didn’t even know this was a trade before Licence to Work.”

The trade has evolved with time to be focused more broadly on leather works. Easts has also diversified to create things like custom shade sails. “If we don’t take on apprentices, we are going to lose these skills and all we’ll create is a labourers’ workforce. “Something like this will give Kaiya a specific skill set and security for life. Even if he wants to do something else when he’s qualified in four years, he will always have this to come back to.” Partially retired and on-hand to help train Kaiya two days a week is legendary Hicks Bay saddler Joe Tihore. Mr Tihore trained Mr Cook when he was Kaiya’s age, so to have the pair now train Kaiya is special, says Mr Tihore.

Pictured from left, saddlers Joe Tihore and Dean Cook, with saddler apprentice, Kaiya Hape. 

From Gisborne Herald