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Ba builds a future through work experience

In 2019, Ba Phong Pham won a First Foundation Scholarship to study Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Auckland. He was paired with Scholarship Partner Fletcher Building which has supported an incredible 78 First Foundation scholarships over the years. Ba says the most valuable part of the scholarship was the work experience and people that Fletcher Building gave him access to.

Ba Phong Pham, Fletcher Building scholar

Fletcher Building is a major contributor to New Zealand’s economy as a manufacturer, home builder, and partner on major construction and infrastructure projects. They’ve also helped Ba build an incredible future he’d thought would be out of his reach.

“As an 18-year-old, it was difficult to imagine enjoying myself working in the construction industry,” he says.

“I had no idea what I was doing at that time. I just got out of high school, and it all seemed really new and daunting to me.

Ba’s found powerful support for unprecedented challenges

“I was assigned to work under the finance manager, a seemingly unassuming Roger Gribble. He looked like he had his fair share of interns and graduates already. However, Roger became less of a boss and more of a mentor. He’s basically chaperoned me throughout the last three and a half years — always very encouraging, very motivating and understanding.

Ba and his cohort of First Foundation scholars were due to begin university in early 2020, just as Covid reached New Zealand.

“We started our tertiary studies a few weeks after the global pandemic hit. We went through a rough phase. Barely a month into our first semester at university, the lockdown happened, and suddenly our world was turned upside down.”

The economic downturn brought a looming high cost of living and lower quality of life for many Kiwis. Students often had to decide between their future education or quitting school to support their families. This is what we faced only a month into our new lives at university.


Everyone was affected, and for corporates such as Fletcher Building, the pressure on their business was immense. However, they never wavered in their commitment to their scholars.

Work experience was exceptional

Starting study amid Covid brought logistical demands of learning online and alone.

For Ba, it was a game-changer to be part of the Fletcher Building team under the leadership of Roger.

“The flexible and thoughtful working arrangement meant that I could juggle my university studies and maintain the best of both worlds,” he says.

“The whole experience was supposed to last six weeks. However, I enjoyed working there so much that I essentially demanded to work there more.

It was about much more than just the casual semantics of business.

Every interaction with the team taught me the importance of people and how kindness, helpfulness and humour can go a long way in making a successful career.

2019 Fletcher Building scholar, Ba Phong Pham

Ba Phong Pham was awarded a First Foundation scholarship through Fletcher Building in 2019.


New aspirations unfolded

“The last three and a half years of exploring the world of business has taught me things beyond my imagination.

“I think that one of the things that First Foundation has helped me think about is leading a life that is charitable. I always participated in charities throughout high school, but I didn’t really figure out a way of doing it myself until I went through the First Foundation programme.

“My experience has motivated me to be able to do something myself.  Hopefully, one day in the not-so-distant future, I will be able to sponsor my own First Foundation scholar and return the favour for the many years of this incredible journey.

Ba’s future is bright

“I’m glad to say that as of November last year, I accepted a job as a finance administrator with Fletcher Living.”

He cheekily quips, “Although it sounds all that glamorous, I mostly just make coffee for Roger and the rest of the team.” However, it’s clear that Ba has a deep affection and respect for his team. 

“Working at Fletcher Living has been the honour of a lifetime.”


Ba Phong shared his journey and spoke on behalf of the completing scholars at First Foundation’s 2023 Awards Ceremony.