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Big steps for tiny home builders

Jason Nash stands in Matai, a tiny home Skillsec students designed and built, with charities benefiting from its sale

Jason Nash went from being a student to a tutor after 14 weeks in a team, building a stylish tiny home that now accommodates Central Otago farm workers.

At the Skillsec workshops in Dunedin, adult students have designed and built three tiny homes. They’ve been sold with more than $20,000 donated to the Otago Youth Wellness Trust and SuperGrans charities.

Students on the latest course are working on a fourth tiny home.

Particularly as New Zealand confronts a housing crisis and seeks affordable, environmental solutions, these thoughtfully-designed 8 m long, 3 m wide homes are in demand.

Jason (31) says he joined the Building, Construction and Allied Trades Skills (BCATS) Level 3 course last August. The goal was to build a small, self-contained house from modern materials.

I hadn’t been doing much for a while, been on the benefit for probably a coupla years.


“I enjoyed the course pretty much from the get-go.”

It wasn’t the traditional carpentry he’d expected. He learned how to insulate and about materials such as polyisocyanurate (PIR), a thermal insulation board. The tiny home is made of steel and PIR panel.

Jason and about 11 other students initially worked on its design and layout.

“It was challenging but in a good way.”

The men and a few women were a mix of ages. They’d discuss how to design fixtures like the interior stairs and ladders, then someone, in this case Jason, drew up plans.

“The group pretty much decides if it’s yay or nay,” he says.

“It’s a bit of a team-building exercise, the whole course.”

Learning a variety of skills

Once the students began constructing the house, a registered electrician showed Jason how to do the wiring.

He’d never done anything like that before, yet he drilled holes, ran cables and wired and attached fittings, making sure each wire went where it was supposed to. He also installed the double-glazed aluminium windows.

The group did a lot of measuring and he jokes about how they scrutinised each other’s measurements.

Fourteen weeks after they’d begun, the result was a beautifully-finished portable tiny home they called Matai.

“I was rapt – I’ve got hundreds of photos.”

Stairs and ladders are a feature of the beautifully-finished tiny home, Matai, at Skillsec’s Dunedin training centre. Photo: Skillsec

Jason also achieved his BCATS Level 3 qualification and a permanent job at Skillsec, tutoring a Level 2 course for youth 18 years and under.

A few years ago when he was in prison, he completed Level 2 in carpentry and Level 3 in furniture and cabinet-making.

Once he’d left prison and was receiving a Job Seekers benefit, he looked for an apprenticeship but couldn’t find one. He hadn’t worked for a while and wanted to give more support to his four children.

He decided to go on a Skillsec course because it had a personal, one-on-one learning environment.

Everyone gets a go, that’s what I like about this place.”


Now as a tutor, Jason enjoys teaching 13 young people basic tool skills as they make chessboards, cabinets and home projects on a 26-week course.

Most have left school early and he knows what this is like, as well as understanding their varied learning styles.

“Because of my past I wanted to help young people avoid doing some of the stuff I’ve done.”

Making a difference

Skillsec Owner/Manager, Leisa Roos, says she and her husband, Norm, bought the training centre because they wanted to make a difference in their community.

She’s pleased the money has been donated to the two charities they work alongside, and happy the tiny homes sell for a reasonable price.

“It’s about learning. We don’t want to make millions out of it, it’s not what we’re here for.”

Each year, Skillsec trains 40 students aged between 15 and 19 in the building, automotive, farming, and health and well-being trades. Most of the kids are disengaged from school or didn’t fit there.

The training centre also supports about 180 job seekers annually to gain employment or higher education.

“We are a place for second chance learners,” Leisa says.

“Everyone here is treated like whānau.”

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1 Comment

  • What a fabulous story !!! I applaud Leisa and Norm for getting this up and running to contribute positively to the community.
    And to Jason, well done !! This is so good to hear. Keep up the great work, you’re being such a good role model to your children, and the other youth youre tutoring.

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