New tricks . . . Marcus Brown (64) is about four months into a building apprenticeship with Crosscut Construction. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

At 64 years old, Oamaru’s Marcus Brown is quite possibly New Zealand’s oldest apprentice.

At a time when most people are considering how they will spend their retirement, Mr Brown was keen to ‘‘finish his working life on a high’’.

‘‘As opposed to just coasting out.’’

Before the Covid-19 pandemic decimated the tourism industry, Mr Brown was a cycle touring guide for two Christchurch companies, picking up other work in the off-season.

Back in June last year, he was working at The Tool Shed, before Brett Stuart, who runs Crosscut Construction with wife Fiona, asked if he wanted some building work.

He had worked ‘‘on and off’’ for the Stuarts previously.

‘‘I said ‘yes, but I’d like you to put me through an apprenticeship’. And so, Brett and Fiona agreed . . .which is obviously quite a commitment from them.’’

It was still early days for Mr Brown, who was about four months into his training.

‘‘I suspect there aren’t many people at 64 that elect to do this sort of thing. But I think anyone who knows me will know I am a little different, and I’m lucky that I’m pretty fit, and I’ve still got most of my marbles. I guess Stuey and the boys will wonder sometimes.’’

Becoming qualified would take about four years, and Mr Brown was unsure how long he would last in the industry after that.

‘‘There are days when I think this is a completely stupid thing to do, but most of the time I’m loving it. Absolutely love it. Happy as.’’

Study was all online, which presented a ‘‘mini-challenge in itself’’ for him. But it was on phone-based apps, which was relatively straightforward and meant he could make the most of rainy days by hitting the books.

The physicality of the job presented a challenge, but the building industry had ‘‘calmed down a little bit’’ since he worked on a building site at 18, carrying 25kg bags of cement.

‘‘At the same time . . .there are days when you’ve just got to get in there and do your thing. And the guys I work with are very conscious, I’m not a big fella, but at the same time I always more than carry my own.

‘‘As Brett has said, there’s no golden glove, and that’s at the back of my mind and that’s why I push myself, because I don’t want to let the team down, and I work with some great fellas.’’

Marcus and his wife Dawn moved to Oamaru from Hampshire, in the UK, in 2003, with their two daughters Bryony and Imogen, then aged 5 and 4. Mrs Brown owns Presence on Harbour in the Victorian precinct, and Mr Brown initially worked as property manager at the Waitaki District Council.

It meant a lot to him the Stuarts had risked investing in him, and he was determined not to let them down.

‘‘It’s massive for me.

‘‘I know there’s been one or two raised eyebrows in the community and within the industry, but you know I’m still here and I’m still loving it, and still hopefully repaying that trust and opportunity.’’

While he considered himself still just the apprentice, he did bring with him life experience and was a ‘‘reasonably old head on young shoulders, [in] inverted commas’’.

‘‘We have a good relationship, where we talk stuff through, and it’s a good company to work for.’’