Alumni’s Unconventional Road to Construction Industry Leadership

March 28, 2024

Aged just 14, Anntonina Savelio knew she wanted to work with her hands, onsite and involved in construction. But her father was a carpenter by trade and steered her away from the long hours, challenging physical work and male-dominated environment.

Several years later as a school-leaver, she envisaged a career in architecture that would afford her some of the on-site experience she craved, and she set about applying for scholarships that would help her to achieve her dreams.

“I vividly remember my first interview with the scholarship selection panel at Keystone Trust; it was my first train trip with my mother into the city, and I cried at the end of it.” But they were happy tears, she assures, having decided there and then that the Trust’s offering exceeded all others. “I was so supported from the very beginning. Becoming part of the Keystone whānau-family has been so much more than just financial assistance. It’s meant care, guidance, and invaluable opportunities.”

Following a few tough years with homesickness, part-time work and full-time architecture studies at Victoria University of Wellington, Antonina made the brave decision to shift her academic focus, leaning into the feelings she held since she was a young girl. “Throughout these challenges, the Trust never stopped checking in, assuring me that first and foremost, wellbeing matters most.”

The McAuley High School graduate was paired with Keystone Trust mentor and Urban Outcomes director Natasha Possenniskie, who offered her life-changing support that would send her career trajectory on an entirely different and wholly fulfilling path. 

“Natasha supported my decision to move home to Auckland and pursue construction management qualifications at Unitec. In 2019, I won a summer internship at Trust sponsor Hawkins, but the pandemic hit, and opportunities dried up.” Anntonina ended up labouring for Hawkins in a bid to keep her place within the industry.

“I was so supported from the very beginning. Becoming part of the Keystone whānau-family has been so much more than just financial assistance. It’s meant care, guidance, and invaluable opportunities.”

Recognising her commitment and tenacity, bosses encouraged her to apply for the in-house cadetship programme, a chance she grabbed with both hands. Today, the Samoan eldest of four holds the niche role of Zero Harms Advisor for Health and Safety operations at Hawkins.

Having managed upwards of 200 workers on sites a day, she is currently based at Auckland Airport overseeing health and safety operations of the domestic terminal redevelopment. “Between onboarding, inspections, auditing, and operations, I am building relationships with our contractors and management. We want everyone who works onsite to return home safely to their aiga-family at the end of the day. Oftentimes, you see people particularly vulnerable, and the role is about building the team up and creating a healthy culture.”

To that end, she says it was circuitous to link Hawkins and the suicide prevention programme Mates in Construction. Which was at the time helmed by former Trust general manager Victoria McArthur. 

“Victoria, Amanda, and the wider Keystone team, including my student cohort, alumni family, and the sponsors, have never wavered in their support throughout life’s curvatures. It’s an honour to be a part of this community, and I am so grateful for the opportunities afforded to me.” Without this, that 14-year-old girl from Manurewa may not have found her place in this very rewarding industry.

It’s an honour to be a part of this community, and I am so grateful for the opportunities afforded to me.”

For further media enquiries, please contact: 

Amanda Stanes                                                                              
Keystone Trust General Manager                                        
M: 021 689 380.
E: amanda@keystonetrust.org.nz 

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