To become a tradesperson in the automotive industry means taking on an apprenticeship that demands dedication, hard work, patience and skill. It isn’t an easy path to take and every apprentice deserves recognition for the tough but rewarding road they have chosen to travel.

However, each year the MTA Institute searches for one apprentice amongst the many to become Apprentice of the Year.

It is a fiendishly difficult task and this year the shortlist of nominees comes down to these eight outstanding students, all of whom were named as an Apprentice of the Month during the past year. Each of them have proven to have the ‘right stuff’ – the passion and drive to carve out a career in our industry.

The nominees are all winners, of course, and each receives a double pass to the Gold Coast 600 V8 which includes, thanks to MTAQ’s partners at MTAA Super, a tour of the Triple Eight Race Engineering garage. But for the Apprentice of the Year, who will be announced at the MTA Institute President’s Ball on November 19, he or she will receive not only the title but $2000 in prize money and a very special surprise to be announced on the night.

Congratulations to all the nominees. We’ll see you at the President’s Ball!

CALEB FERGUSON
APPRENTICESHIP: MOTORCYCLE MECHANICAL TECHNOLOGY
EMPLOYER: PRO HONDA MOTORCYCLES

19-year-old Caleb Ferguson has a passion for motorcycles. The first-year motorcycle mechanic apprentice with Pro Honda Motorcycles has been riding, racing and maintaining bikes for years and with two younger brother who compete in motocross at a national standard, that is likely to continue.

An enthusiastic and hard-working apprentice, Caleb gets plenty of practice at Pro Honda.

“I work on services, tyre changes and sometimes do deliveries – pretty much whatever needs to be done,” he says. “We do it all here – road bikes, cruisers, scooters and so on. We work on all types of manufacturers’ bikes so I get to work on everything. That’s the best part about working here – I’m not stuck on the one thing because I’m an apprentice.”

Caleb has an infectious enthusiasm for his chosen career. He likes to keep busy, to keep learning and he knows that to be successful, and to make a mark in the racing world where he would one day like to work, that is exactly what he will have to do.

“The electronics in bikes is getting pretty advanced,” he says. “A lot of the work we do on new bikes revolves around serious electronics.

“Eventually, I want to go in the racing direction and work in motocross or supercross, so it’s important to be across suspension and engine performance – areas that make a bike reliable and competitive.”

The nomination for MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year has, says Caleb, given him even more motivation to succeed and reach his goals.

“When I was told I had been nominated I was surprised and excited all at once – it was awesome,” he says. “My colleagues and my family are all proud and it makes me feel great about what I am doing and what I am learning and that the track I am on is the right one. It makes me want to do even better!”

REYD NICHOLSON
APPRENTICESHIP: AUTO ELECTRICAL
EMPLOYER: NERANG AUTO ELECTRICAL
Reyd Nicholson completed his auto electrical apprenticeship in December 2015 and his time as an apprentice was marked by a determination to succeed and to learn – an attitude that saw him pick up not only the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month award in September of 2015 but also a silver medal at last year’s regional Worldskills competition.

The 21-year-old auto electrician works for Nerang Auto Electrical – a busy firm that deals with heavy vehicle, machinery and agricultural work, as well as light vehicle and air conditioning – and he has proved to be a real asset to his employer.

A year on from qualifying, Reyd is fully immersed in the trade, working not only in the shop but also on call-out jobs for businesses across the southeast and even on sand-pumping barges off the Gold Coast.

It is, says Reyd, a job he truly enjoys and a career in which he will continue to learn.

“You need to have a passion for the work, and have the patience to work things out properly,” he says. “It can be incredibly rewarding – when you get something difficult to fix and you fix it, it’s a great feeling.

“I am very happy where I am, I really enjoy my job and will look to continue to develop my skills through training in other areas such as welding.”

The hard graft of the past few years has been recognised with the nomination for the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year award – a result that has made him extremely proud of the work he has put into his career thus far.

“My colleagues, friends and family are all very proud and happy,” he says. “It is very rewarding. I work hard and I stick to that work ethic – without that I don’t think I would have been nominated. It goes to show that when you work hard it can pay off and does get noticed.”

JAMAHL BYRNE
APPRENTICESHIP: LIGHT VEHICLE MECHANICAL
EMPLOYER: HANSEN FORD/MAREEBA TOYOTA

Jamahl Byrne was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for October 2015. As a fourth-year light vehicle apprentice with Mareeba Toyota and Hansen Ford, he impressed everyone with his enthusiasm and dedication to his work and training.

That enthusiasm and dedication has followed Jamahl into his job as a mechanic and the 20 year old is already a technical advisor, combining servicing and repair work with diagnostic and computer work. It’s a combination of roles that Jamahl relishes.

“I enjoy everything. I get to work on cars all day!” he says. “I like to learn new things. Any day that I get to work on a repair that is different, or a diagnostic that I haven’t seen before, defines a good day to me.”

A career in automotive was always on the cards for Jamahl. He has always been interested in cars and recently completed, with his father, a two-year restoration project on a 1966 Mustang. His experience has shown him how much the industry has changed and the need to keep up to date with the evolving technology.

“You really have to understand things such as the electronics systems and be able to go through, step-by-step, how everything works,” he says. “Because I have worked on old cars and can compare them to cars today, it is a bit of a shock. The industry is very dynamic.”

For Jamahl, continuing to learn and train is an important part of his career and he plans to qualify as a master technician for both Ford and Toyota.

“I definitely want to be a master technician,” he says. “In terms of other training, I will definitely look into areas such as road worthies and air conditioning. Ultimately, I’d like to look at a training role as a job – a role in which I could help train apprentices and other technicians.”

Though clearly an outstanding student, Jamahl was surprised to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year.

“I was shocked,” he says. “I think everyone was surprised but very proud. It is great to be recognised for the hard work that I’ve put in.”

DANE TURNBULL
APPRENTICESHIP: LIGHT VEHICLE MECHANICAL
EMPLOYER: PEDDERS SUSPENSION SLACKS CREEK

Dane Turnbull is a third-year mechanical technician working with Pedders Suspension in Slacks Creek, south of Brisbane. The 28 year old came late to the automotive trade, spending some years in other professions.

“I’ve always loved cars and have been tinkering on them for years,” he says. “I grew up working on Commodores – I had six of them – and I always wanted a job as a mechanic. However, circumstances didn’t permit that when I was younger and it was only recently that I was able to move into automotive.”

Dane completed a Certificate I in Vehicle Mechanical Engineering before taking on an apprenticeship, and is now putting his knowledge and skills – and a passion for speed and drag racing – to good use, including in building, tuning, refining and racing a Commodore VT.

At work, Dane covers the mechanical and suspension side of the business and it’s a job he relishes.

“I love just about everything about the job,” he says. “I’ve always been passionate about cars so it is easy for me to enjoy what I do. As an apprentice you need to be dedicated and ask a lot of questions. It’s good to be curious and not be afraid to ask for help.”

That curiosity, paired with his passion for the trade, is likely to set Dane up for a long career.

“Ultimately, I would like to open my own workshop for dyno-tuning, engine building and the elements of the trade that I really love. However, it is important to keep learning and to get more experience.”

Being nominated for the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year award is, said Dane, a real honour and one that left him somewhat surprised.

“My reaction when I found out was one of disbelief!” he says. “My friends and family were overwhelmed and it was a proud moment.

“The biggest thing I take away from it is the recognition of all the hard work and effort that we put in. It does make it seem even more worth it.”

THERESA KERR
APPRENTICESHIP: LIGHT VEHICLE MECHANICAL
EMPLOYER: BP THE GAP

Theresa Kerr completed her light vehicle apprenticeship in October 2015 and is now working as a mechanic with BP The Gap in Brisbane.

Theresa, 30, began working at the business 10 years ago, initially behind the service counter. The story of her move from shop to workshop is unusual.

“I had a big job to do on my car, not for the first time,” she says. “I asked if I could learn how to do these things myself and that’s how it happened.”

Theresa says she loves the work and has been made to feel truly welcome in what is still a male-dominated industry.

“I have never met another female mechanic, but I know they exist!” she says. “It is fantastic here – I have a great boss and I work with good people.”

Theresa takes on many roles within the business. As well as her mechanical duties – which include servicing, repairs and tyre fitment – she fills in when required in the office.

“I like doing a bit of everything but one of the best parts of the job is when you get a ‘win’ – when you diagnose a fault and fix it,” she says. “That’s when you can do a ‘happy dance’!”

Theresa clearly enjoys her work and recognises the industry is one where ongoing training is required. For Theresa, this means expand her management skills.

“I’d like to stay on the tools for a while and then think about progressing to workshop advisor, management or owning my own business,” she says. “I know it is tough work but I do want to be in the industry for the rest of my life.”

Theresa’s life is a pretty full one these days and the nomination for MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year came as a very pleasant shock.

“Although I had received the Apprentice of the Month award, I certainly didn’t expect this call,” she says. “To receive the Apprentice of the Year nomination is one of the biggest things I have ever achieved. I am very proud of that.”

TRENT HARPER
APPRENTICESHIP: LIGHT VEHICLE MECHANICAL
EMPLOYER: PRO ACDC MECHANICAL

20-YEAR-OLD Trent Harper is a second-year mechanical apprentice working with ACDC Mechanical in Runcorn. He started his career straight after school – a period of work experience confirming that automotive was the industry for him.

“I was always interested in cars but didn’t know much about them,” he says. “I did some work experience and, after two weeks, I didn’t want to do anything else! Once I finished school, ACDC took me on and I’ve been here ever since.”

Trent’s job covers servicing, mechanical and some auto electrical work and he has impressed both his colleagues and his MTAI trainer with his attention to detail and willingness to learn.

“There are a lot of things I enjoy but the main thing is learning from my trainer and my colleagues,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Trent’s enthusiasm is obvious and he has ambitions to continue his training into other areas and to one day owning his own business.

“It’s a great trade to get into. It offers a great learning experience and it’s a trade you can use through your life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

His career has got off to a good start. Trent was named Apprentice of the Month in June this year and is now nominated for Apprentice of the Year.

“I don’t know that I am anything special,” he says. “I am just doing the best job I can. I was honoured to have won the Apprentice of the Month, and to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year, well, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“It’s great to be acknowledged for the work I have put in but I think this also means that I am receiving the best training. I am looking forward to bettering myself in any way I can knowing I have the right tools and the right people around me to get me there.”

JACOB GONZALEZ
APPRENTICESHIP: AUTO ELECTRICAL
EMPLOYER: GREENSLOPES AUTO ELECTRICS

22-YEAR-OLD Jacob is a second-year auto electrical apprentice with Greenslopes Auto Electrics in Brisbane. He has built up a solid set of skills during his apprenticeship – skills that have led his boss, Michael Dilkes, to place a great deal of trust in the young man.

“There is just the two of us here,” says Jacob. “When Michael is out of the workshop, I am acting manager and do a fair bit of the business side of things – interacting with customers, ordering parts, organising the bills. It is a full-on experience.”

It’s an experience Jacob nearly didn’t have as he originally started his automotive career by undertaking a light vehicle apprenticeship. He said having had that experience before switching worked to his advantage in the auto electrical field.

“Starting in mechanics was definitely my gateway to being an auto electrician. Some people think auto electricians just mess about with wiring looms but there is a lot more to it than that! Having a mechanical background has definitely helped.”

Having made strong progress during his apprenticeship thus far, and clearly appreciating the possibilities offered by the industry, Jacob has set himself some ambitious goals.

“After I qualify I’d like to start my own business and I am looking at completing the Cert III in Light Vehicle.That way I can have a full-service offering in my business.”

While that may be a little while away, Jacob’s nomination for the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year Award is a clear indication he has the skills and determination to be successful.

“When I was told I had been nominated for Apprentice of the Year I was pretty excited,” he says. “Being nominated is a huge achievement and shows that I can really achieve things when I put my head down. It means a great deal to me.”

ZANE LORD-MILLER
APPRENTICESHIP: HEAVY COMMERCIAL VEHICLE
EMPLOYER: M&H OAKEY

Zane Lord-Miller completed his Heavy Commercial Vehicle apprenticeship in March this year and has become a valued member of the M&H Oakey team, helping to deliver what is a very comprehensive list of services offered by the company.

“I handle a bit of everything,” says Zane.
“We do RACQ roadside assistance and fit tyres, work on trucks and tractors, and service and maintain air conditioning and hydraulics. We also work on agricultural equipment and I do a fair bit of work for New Hope Mines, working on hydraulic hoses and air conditioning.”

While Zane’s days are always busy, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I like to keep busy,” he says. “There’s always something different happening. We have a job board for the day and we could have services, air con services, hydraulics and whatever comes in off the street. It’s a bit unpredictable!”

That unpredictability, and to be able to diagnose and fix any problems that come along, requires flexibility, confidence and common sense – strengths that, together with his desire to keep learning, highlights why Zane is an MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year nominee.

“I have considered training in auto electrical, and there are other areas where I could do extra courses,” he says. “If, in the future, I want to spread my wings and perhaps start a business, it’s important to get as much knowledge and experience as possible.”

Zane says being a nominee for MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year is a great honour.

“I was pretty stoked when I found out,” he says. “Everybody is very proud – everyone at work, my family and friends – and it is great to be recognised for the hard work that I’ve put in so far.”