On the 16th November, MTA Queensland will be hosting its annual Industry Dinner at the Emporium Hotel, Southbank in Brisbane.

A celebration of the automotive industry, training excellence, of the achievement of MTA Queensland members and MTA Institute apprentices over the past 12 months, the evening will be hosted by Ben Davis from Channel Seven. Ben will be joined by special guests Craig Lowndes, a legend of Australian motorsport, and Simona De Silvestro, the first full-time female Supercar driver, for a Q&A session on the lives and experiences of both drivers.

The highlights of the evening, however, will be the announcement of the winners of the MTA Queensland awards.

In last month’s edition of Motor Trader, we reviewed the amazing individuals and businesses that are finalists in the Community award, the Innovation award, and the Women In Industry award categories.

In this month’s Motor Trader, and over the next few pages, we will take a look at the incredibly talented group of finalists vying for the MTA Queensland Apprentice of the Year award.

These young people, some of whom have now qualified in their chosen trade, represent the future of the automotive industry, and in a landscape that is changing at a rapid pace, with new technology and new concepts being developed and being launched all the time, they are taking their first steps into a career full of opportunities and exciting challenges.

Each of these finalists has excelled during their apprenticeship training and have been presented with the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month award at some stage during the past 12 months. That is no small feat – with more than 2000 students being trained by the Institute across the state, it is clear that these nominees are of outstandingly high calibre and have already proven they have the will and the skill to succeed.

However, there can be only one winner of the Apprentice of the Year award and that person will be revealed on November 16.

Congratulations to all the finalists!


As per previous years, the Industry Dinner will include an auction that will raise money for MTA Queensland’s charity partner Youngcare. The 2018 event raised almost $10,000 for the this very worthy organisation that seeks to create a future in which every young person with high care needs can live a life of freedom, choice and dignity.

If you haven’t yet bought your ticket for the 2019 Industry Dinner, you can still do so. Tickets can be purchased from the MTA Queensland website – or click the blue button link on this page. Member prices start from $135pp (GST included).

The evening is proudly supported by our event partners MTAA Super, Commonwealth Bank and CORE SME.

2019 Apprentice of the Year Nominees

Bailey Locker

QUALIFICATION: AUR31116 Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Mechanical Technology
CURRENT EMPLOYER: J.J. Richards, Toowoomba

BAILEY LOCKER was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for September 2018.

Then aged 20 and a 4th-year apprentice, Bailey was awarded the accolade because of his consistently high standards in the workplace and in his training.

“Bailey reaches a very high standard of practical and theory work and excels during day-to-day tasks,” said Steve Adams, Bailey’s MTA Institute trainer, at the time. “He also takes a senior and proactive role regarding workshop flow and handling, is polite, and very highly regarded by his colleagues.”

Bailey completed his apprenticeship with T & H Service Centre in Dalby in March after receiving comprehensive training in a variety of disciplines thanks to the wide range of services – from light to heavy vehicle – offered by the company.

After qualifying, he moved on from T & H to work in Toowoomba with J.J. Richards, the largest privately owned waste management company in Australia that runs more than 60 locations across the eastern states and has more than 1600 vehicles in its fleet.

“I started with them in July and the move was in part to continue to expand my knowledge and experience,” said Bailey. “The opportunities at a big company like J.J. Richards are just about endless. They want you to learn and are prepared to teach you everything there is to know about the trucks and other equipment they run. And so I work on a broad spectrum of vehicles including trucks, front loaders, excavators and so on.

“They are a big concern, so I’m hoping there is scope to move on and up in the company over time.”

Since winning the Apprentice of the Month award a year ago, Bailey has had lots of time to think about the upcoming Apprentice of the Year award announcement. He is, he said, proud to be a finalist and to be in the running for the title.

“You never know what is going to happen,” he said. “It’s a real honour to be a finalist and it would be a tremendous honour and would mean a great deal to win.”

Jett Santacaterina

QUALIFICATION: AUR30416 Certificate III in Agricultural Mechanical Technology
EMPLOYER: Vanderfield, North Mackay

JETT SANTACATERINA IS one of the youngest of the Apprentice of the Year finalists.

A third-year agricultural mechanical technology apprentice with Vanderfield North Mackay, Jett was named the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for October 2018 having impressed with his commitment to the work and training, and his willingness to get stuck in.

“Jett is a very committed apprentice,” said Neville Donaldson, his MTA Institute trainer. “He goes out of his way to help others; his theory work is excellent and always done on time, and he is well liked by everybody, including customers and work peers.”

Jett knew early on that a mechanical trade in the agricultural sector was for him, and he secured the apprenticeship with Vanderfield when he was just 15.

“I have always had a passion for working with my hands and I would help dad in the shed with cars, motorbikes and our tractor,” he said. “And I have always been interested in the cane industry, tractors and harvesters, so I thought it would be interesting to learn how they work and how to fix them.

“When I started here at Vanderfield, I worked on push mowers and ride-on owners and so on – just the basic stuff – but now work on tractors and harvesters, rebuilding engines and transmissions, and recently have begun doing more field-service work. And I am enjoying that.”

With the Apprentice of the Year award presentation just around the corner, Jett said he was looking forward to the big night and the announcement of the award winner.

“I am very proud to be one of the finalists. It is a very big achievement,” he said. “And I am looking forward to the event. I’ll be bringing my partner, my mum and dad and my grandmother. It should be good fun!

“I’d like to think I had a chance at the award. It would be quite an achievement,” he added. “To be a finalist is great though, and it shows that if you put your head down and strive for what you want, the effort can be recognised. I’m very proud.”

Casey Steel

QUALIFICATION: AUR30616 Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
APPRENTICESHIP EMPLOYER: Dean’s Performance Autos, Manunda

CASEY STEEL was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for November 2018.

The 20-year-old completed his light vehicle apprenticeship with Dean’s Performance Autos in Malanda, Far North Queensland, in March. He fairly raced through his training and, according to his trainer Scott Buckley, achieved all his goals thanks to an outstanding commitment to his work and a single-minded focus on learning all he could about the light vehicle trade.

Like many young auto apprentices, Casey got the bug for cars from working with his dad, although he did flirt for a time at working in a completely different trade.

“Dad’s a Jack of all trades and he’d always have an old Kingswood or HiLux in the shed and be working on that,” said Casey. “But when I finished school, I moved down to Cairns and got the first apprenticeship I could get which was in cabinet making. However, after about a year, I came back home, and worked for Dean for about six months before scoring the apprenticeship.”

Casey had plenty of opportunity to learn at Dean’s Performance Autos as the team there work on a wide variety of vehicles on a wide variety of jobs. Suspensions, engine rebuilds, gearbox rebuilds, diff rebuilds, electrical work – everything was on the menu, even some agricultural machinery.

That’s a solid grounding for any light vehicle apprentice and since completing his training, Casey has taken that experience to a new role at MSF Sugar, a leading agribusiness company and Australia’s largest sugarcane farming concern.

“I’m working on the farms doing maintenance on agricultural machinery and MSF’s vehicles,” said Casey. “They’re based in Mareeba and have their own shop and their own equipment. They cut their own cane, so I help to look after harvesters and irrigation equipment such as pumps and so on. Things have been going very well and I’m enjoying the job a lot.”

Casey said he was looking forward to the industry awards night and will be attending with his family and partner Madison.

“I hope to win, of course – the Apprentice of the Year award will certainly look good on the resume – but I know the other finalists are very strong, so I’m pretty nervous for the night but excited as well,” he said. “When you think about the quality of the other apprentices, to be a finalist is something of which I am very proud.”

Dusty Austin

QUALIFICATION: AUR30816 Certificate III in Motorcycle Mechanical Technology
EMPLOYER: Top Two Motorcycles, Warwick

The past few months have been pretty eventful for Dusty Austin.

In November 2018, he completed his motorcycle mechanical technology apprenticeship and started his career as a fully fledged tradesman; in December 2018 he was named MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month; and less than a year later he has become a father, having welcomed, with partner Nakita, a daughter, Jade Ella Austin, into the world at the end of September.

It has been a hectic year that, not surprisingly, has been a little overwhelming.

“Basically, the last 10 months have just flown by,” said Dusty. “And becoming a dad definitely changes my perspective on life. For now, the short-term outlook is to prioritise sleep and helping Nakita, and I’m really focused on minimising stress and just enjoying my job, my family, and living life.”

There is the little matter of the Apprentice of the Year award announcement to get out of the way first and Dusty showed throughout his training that he was an outstanding student and worthy award finalist.

Prior to his apprenticeship, he had worked for a few years as a farmhand but once he had turned his attention to the motorcycle trade, he qualified in less than three years – proving to be a skilled and conscientious worker with a sterling attitude to the work and a desire to learn and get on with the job.

“Dusty started his apprenticeship in March 2016 as a mature-age apprentice and his progression has been remarkable,” said Zak Zuiderduin, his MTA Institute trainer, when interviewed earlier this year. “His passion for the trade is at the highest level, he is always willing to learn more, and he has great respect for all around him.”

For Dusty, even with that acknowledgement of his abilities, there appears to be real surprise that he should find himself in with a shot at the Apprentice of the Year prize.

“It’s really crazy to think about. I can’t believe I’ve been selected to be honest,” he said. “It was only three to four years ago that I was a farmhand chasing cows around! As far as the result goes, I’m happy with just getting this far. I’m sure the other finalists have every chance of winning and are deserving.

“It would be really awesome and definitely be great to add to my resume, and it would also be great for Top Two as they are a smaller rural dealership,” he added. “But it’s nice just to gain recognition for the hard work and passion that I try and take to work each day.”

Kade Hutchison

QUALIFICATION: AUR30616 Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
EMPLOYER: Noel’s Progress Road Pitstop, Wacol

KADE HUTCHISON was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for January. The 19-year-old has now completed his light vehicle apprenticeship, wrapping up his training in mid-September.

It’s a tremendous effort from Kade, who began his training after leaving school at 16 and taking an apprentice position at Noel’s Progress Road Pitstop in Wacol, Brisbane.

An enthusiastic and driven employee, Kade showed himself to be tremendous student with a fantastic work ethic.

“He is an exceptional apprentice,” said Keith Minchin, Kade’s MTA Institute trainer when interviewed about Kade’s apprentice of the month award win.

“He is well-respected by his employer and colleagues, and his quality of work has always been exceptional.

“His ability to understand and apply technical concepts is very good, he demonstrates the ability to work autonomously, and he communicates effectively with colleagues. He has a promising future in the industry.”

The origin of Kade’s interest in automotive is easy to track down.

“My grandfather was a mechanic, and he taught my dad everything he knew” he said. “My dad actually isn’t a mechanic but having a mechanic for a dad meant he learned pretty much everything, and I ended being on the tools helping him around the shed.

“I heard some great stories – including that my grandfather took a Holden Grey motor and built it to run a 12-second quarter mile! He was always tinkering!”

At Noel’s Progress Road Pitstop, Kade’s work is varied – from general servicing to jobs on tyres and wheels – and that variety and his general interest in all things automotive has spurred him to consider further training opportunities.

“I might take on another apprenticeship,” he said. “Maybe diesel fitting, but I’m also looking at auto electrical as an option. The industry is heading into an interesting time and it’s important to keep training.”

As an Apprentice of the Year finalist, Kade said he wasn’t anxious about the outcome and was proud to even be in the running.

“I’m not really nervous about it,” he said. “If I am named apprentice of the year that would be great, and it wouldn’t look bad on my resume! But if I’m not, then so be it. I am proud to be a finalist and to get this far is a great achievement and a big honour.”

Daniel Beckham

QUALIFICATION: AUR31116 Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Mechanical Technology
EMPLOYER: Prochem Haulage, Mackay

The winner of the apprentice of the month award in February, 19-year-old Daniel Beckham is a fourth-year heavy vehicle apprentice with Prochem Haulage in Mackay and has proved himself an outstanding student, demonstrating a strong passion for the trade with an excellent work ethic.

Along with his mechanical knowledge, Daniel is also proving to be a very competent welder who is often placed on Prochem’s fabrication repairs/assemblies to decrease downtime. He has also taken on auto greaser installation, breakdown and callout work.

While he has been impressing with his performance at work and his personable nature, his training is equally exemplary.

“Dan always has his modules done on time and with high percentages,” said Neville Donaldson, his MTA Institute trainer. “His work is carried out with professionalism and his ability is nearly as good as a qualified mechanic with a couple of years’ experience.”

For Daniel himself, working at Prochem is, he said, an enjoyable experience. A wide variety of work comes through the workshop and he has recently begun to go out on jobs in surrounding communities to service and maintain machinery.

Thanks to the scale of the Prochem operation, Daniel said he would look to stay on with the company once he completes his apprenticeship.

“There are a few different work roles and career options within the company that I could explore – we have a fleet of trucks and machinery, deliver bulk fluids to the mines and we have machinery operating in the mines too. I’d like to stick with Prochem and see what I can achieve with the company after my apprenticeship.”

Completing that apprenticeship should come in the next few months but before then there is the apprentice of the year award to think about. That, said Daniel, is something he is excited be a part of.

“I know it is a big deal to be a finalist and I am pretty nervous,” he said. “I am sure the other finalists are very good and deserving of the award so I’m not expecting too much. However, I am excited about it. It’s a big achievement to be there, and to win would be amazing.”

Karl Berlin

QUALIFICATION: AUR30416 Certificate III in Agricultural Mechanical Technology
EMPLOYER: Barambah Machinery, Murgon

KARL BERLIN was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for March.

The 21-year-old, who completed his agricultural mechanical technology qualification in July and has impressed everyone – his employers at Barambah Machinery in Murgon, his clients and his trainer -with the quality of his work.

“His book work is exemplary. When he writes a response, it is amazing the detail he goes into,” said MTA Institute trainer Terry Palfrey when Karl won the apprentice of the month award. “He also goes to factory training and receives top marks. He rises to every challenge and the feedback from clients is terrific. Karl deserves the recognition for his hard work.”

And there is plenty of work to do at Barambah Machinery. The business is located in farming country 270km north-west of Brisbane and offers repair and maintenance services, as well as machinery sales, to the local community.

A career in the agricultural sector was always on the cards for Karl.

Brought up in a farming family, he spent his childhood helping around the property.

“I have always been around agricultural equipment – driving tractors, fixing small engines and so on, basically helping out wherever I could,” he said.

This interest translated into gaining work experience at Barambah Machinery and, after finishing school, the start of his apprenticeship with the business.

The work and the training, Karl said, had been tough but a lot of fun and since talking to Motor Trader in March and completing his apprenticeship, things have not slacked off with Karl continuing to work “on a bit of everything”.

Regarding the apprentice of the year award, Karl said he was excited about travelling down to Brisbane with his partner Georgia for the big night and that winning the award or not wouldn’t change the achievement of being one of the MTA Institute’s top students.

“It will be great to enjoy a night like that,” he said. “I don’t actually think too much about winning, although I would be very honoured if I did. I’m just proud to be a finalist.”

Reece Haslam

QUALIFICATION: AUR32416 Certificate III in Automotive Refinishing Technology
EMPLOYER: McAully’s Smash Repairs

REECE HASLAM WAS the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for May.

The 24-year-old refinishing technology apprentice is now in his fourth year of training and continues to excel.

Consistency and enthusiasm have marked him as an outstanding apprentice and according to Sam Quin, Reece’s MTA Institute trainer, he has talent to spare.

“When Reece attempted his first refinish of a pearl I was absolutely blown away by the result,” said Sam. “He has shown so much talent.”

Reece took an unusual route to his refinishing apprenticeship, having already been a chef for some years after completing an apprenticeship in the culinary arts.

Moving from the kitchen to the spray booth might seem like a leap, but Reece has always been a car enthusiast. In fact, he has been involved in drifting for years and now races a 200SX S14 in the pursuit of those speed thrills.

Moving on from the food industry, he scored an apprenticeship with McAully’s Smash Repairs three years ago and started in panel repair before quickly switching to paint, working on all manner of jobs, including solids, candies, pearls, and metallics.

Since Motor Trader last talked to Reece, he has advanced further, seeing jobs through from priming to customer delivery.

“I now work essentially by myself and own the job from start to finish,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how big the job is, I pick it up when it’s primed and paint it all myself and it is very satisfying to see the job through.”

Reece should be finishing his apprenticeship within 12 months and is looking forward to staying on with McAully Smash as a tradesman.
“They’ve looked after me from day dot,” he said. “I went in there with very little experience and they gave me chance and I’d like to think I can repay them for giving me a go.”

With the Apprentice of the Year award winner to be revealed soon, Reece said he was excited and a little surprised to be a finalist but had given some thought to how he might use the award should he win.

“I have put in some hard work and it feels very good to be recognised,” he said. “I certainly am proud to be a finalist. It is quite an achievement. I was actually very surprised to have been nominated in the first place as I was just working at my apprenticeship and had no idea I had even been nominated!

“However, should I win, then I would like to think I could use that to encourage more kids to come into the trade.”

Jesse Weatherhead

QUALIFICATION: AUR321116 Certificate III in Automotive Body Repair Technology
EMPLOYER: Atherton Smash Repair Specialists

22-year-old Jesse Weatherhead was the Apprentice of the Month for July.

A fourth-year Automotive Body Repair Technology apprentice, he is due to complete in November – just before the Apprentice of the Year award winner is announced.

Jesse is doing his training at Atherton Smash Repair Specialists – one of the most advanced smash repair shops in North Queensland and a tremendous grounding for any aspiring tradesperson. According to his trainer Shane Palmer and employers Stephen and Karen West, Jesse has taken full advantage of the opportunity, proving to have a great attitude and able to reach the high standards the business expects.

“Jesse is willing to undertake repair work no matter how big the job,” said Shane. “He has a great relationship with colleagues and his employer, is always attentive and shows great detail and pride in his work.”

A career in automotive was always likely for Jesse. He has been involved in stock car racing since he was a child and the rough and tumble of that category means he has been doing mechanical and body repairs for a long time.

“I’ve worked on cars all my life, fixing engines on the stock cars and that sort of jazz,” he said. “My dad and brother were involved, and I got into it when I was about 12. And I still have the car I started with. It has a Corvette body over an HQ chassis, but it needs a new motor and is in a bit of a pickle at the moment. I’m working on it and it’s getting there slowly.”

Work at Atherton Smash involves “a bit of everything”, said Jesse.

“We work on everything from trucks to Mercedes, so there’s plenty of variety,” he said. “And I do a bit of everything, from pulling stuff apart, changing quarter panels, to using the car-o-liner for straightening chassis.”

Looking forward to the prospect of attending the MTA Queensland industry dinner and lining up for the Apprentice of the Year award, Jesse said that it was clear the other finalists were exceptional and that to be a finalist and to be recognised for the hard work he had done was already something special.
“I’m excited to come to the dinner and to meet a few new people,” he said. “And it would be amazing to win. I’ve just been doing my normal thing but to be recognised for that is great. It is great to feel appreciated and I am very proud of the achievement.”

Kimberley Wallace

QUALIFICATION: AUR31016 Certificate III in Sales (Parts Interpreting)
EMPLOYER: Morgan Motors, Emerald

Kimberley Wallace was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for August.

The 31-year-old works at Morgan Motors, a Honda motorcycle and power equipment dealership in Emerald, and recently completed her parts interpreting apprenticeship.

During her training, Kimberley showed great aptitude and a great appetite to learn and develop her skills.

“In her last assessment on merchandise products, Kimberley achieved 100 per cent on her first attempt. She is only the third person to do so in my years of training apprentices,” said Peter Jaensch, Kimberley’s MTA Institute trainer. “She is bright and cheerful, very organised, achieved well in her theory work and excelled in her apprenticeship. Nothing is too hard for her.”

Punctual and professional, ready to take on extra responsibilities when asked – and trusted to do so – Kimberley showed great initiative during her apprenticeship and, her employer says, ‘always puts in 110 percent into her role’.

This initiative and passion for the work has been rewarded in the short time since she completed her qualification, with Kimberley now promoted to assistant manager for parts and accessories.

Kimberley said she was delighted to have been named an apprentice of the month winner and was proud to be a finalist for the apprentice of the year award. The entire journey, it seems, had been an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

“I achieved something that I wanted and did it better than I was expecting,” she said of her apprenticeship. “I thought I would just work to get my qualification and then keep on working to better myself.

“Being named a finalist for apprentice of the year Is a surprise and an awesome achievement, and I would love to win, of course,” she added. “And it means something that I am female too. You don’t see a lot of girls doing this and I feel that if I do win, then it might encourage more females into the industry. I think they are out there and want to do it but are a little bit scared. But if boys can do it, we can too!”

As for the future, there is talk of starting a family and helping out on her partner’s family’s cotton farm. But whatever she does, and whatever the outcome on the night of the awards, Kimberley said she will continue her training journey.

“I certainly will be very proud if I do win, but I will work to keep on training, focus on the business side of things, and continue to learn and work to better myself.”

9 Oct 2019

Original source: Motor Trader Magazine (Oct 2019)