2020 MTA Queensland Apprentice of the Year Award Finalists

On October 16, MTA Queensland and the MTA Institute will be announcing the winner of the Apprentice of the Year award for 2020.

Under normal circumstances, this important announcement would be made at the Association’s annual Industry Dinner. However, this year, and due to the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic, things will be different with the announcement event to be held at the MTAiQ Innovation Hub at the MTA Queensland head office in Brisbane.

The event will, of course, follow a COVID-safe plan, but for those for whom travelling to Brisbane is just too far, or for those who would like to attend but cannot make it for one reason or another, then the entire event will be available to view online.

Regardless of the somewhat unique circumstances in which we find ourselves in 2020, recognising the hard work and commitment of our industry’s future leaders is as important as ever – perhaps even more so during this time of pressure and challenge – and the Apprentice of the Year award announcement is one of the highlights of the year.

For 2020, we have 10 outstanding finalists, each of whom has excelled during their training and all of whom have been named as Apprentice of the Month winners at some point during the past 12 months – already quite a feat considering the MTA Institute trains more than 2000 apprentices across Queensland.

These young people, who you can read more about over the next few pages, represent the future of an automotive industry that is evolving fast, with new technologies and innovations appearing and moving it in new and challenging directions. It is exciting, and an honour, to train them and watch them take the first steps of their career.

We congratulate all the finalists and if you would like to watch the Apprentice of the Year 2020 announcement online, then click on the blue button link on the left and follow the prompts. The event will take place from 6pm-8pm on Friday, October 16.

2020 Apprentice of the Year Finalists

Daniel O’Dea

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Rolin Mechanical, Rocklea, Brisbane

Daniel O’Dea was the Apprentice of the Month for November 2019.

The 26-year-old completed his training in May 2020 and is now a qualified light vehicle mechanic working at Rolin Mechanical in Brisbane.

Reaching this point has been a long road for Daniel. He first started his apprenticeship with MTA Institute when he was 19 but, after completing three years of the course, he was unable to complete his training at that time. After three years away from the industry, he made his return in January 2019, finding a position with Rolin Mechanical, a business run by husband and wife team Robert and Linda Clacher.

During his apprenticeship, he impressed both employer and trainer with his passion for the work.

“Daniel has become a great apprentice, both with the work he is doing in the workshop and in completing the required workload with MTA Institute. He does both to an incredibly high standard,” said Daniel’s MTAI Institute trainer Steve Hudspith when it was announced he had received the Apprentice of the Month award. “His work ethic is second to none.”

As the son of a mechanic who became the owner of a dealership, Daniel was brought up around cars and has been tinkering and working on them since he was a child. So it is no surprise that a career in the industry would beckon.

“I’ve been around cars my whole life,” he said. “Working on them is what I love doing and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I come to work and really enjoy it and I never think of it as a job really.”

As a fan of performance cars – he is currently upgrading a Mark III Supra – a move into that sector at some point down the track looks like a good bet for Daniel.

“Working in the performance side of the industry is definitely something I’d like to pursue,” he said. “I have always been interested in that area and maybe I can do that and run my own business someday.”

Since winning the Apprentice of the Month award last year, Daniel has had plenty of time to think about the upcoming Apprentice of the Year award announcement. He is, he said, proud to be in the running.

“It feels good to be a finalist,” he said. “I was humbled to receive the Apprentice of the Month award, so if I were to win the Apprentice of the Year award, it would be awesome. It would be the icing on the cake.”

Gabrielle Clift

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Highfields Mechanical, Highfields

It has been a big year for Gabrielle Clift. The 21-year-old, third-year light vehicle apprentice at Highfields Mechanical in Highfields near Toowoomba was named the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for December 2019, is a finalist for the MTAQ Apprentice of the Year award, and was named Capricorn’s Rising Star Apprentice of the Year in July.

“I was shocked to win the Capricorn award. I was stoked,” said Gabrielle. “I give my work 110 per cent and to be recognised for it made me feel very lucky because I am sure there are many apprentices out there who are doing the same thing. I felt very humbled.”

While Gabrielle is modest regarding her achievements, these awards and nominations are well-earned as she has proven to be an outstanding apprentice and employee.

“Gabrielle is an excellent student who achieves very good results in exams and practical assessments,” said Colin Crawford, her MTA Institute trainer. “She is very dedicated to her training and workplace and is an excellent example to other apprentices and tradespeople.”

While Gabrielle is fully committed to her light vehicle training, it wasn’t her original apprenticeship. In fact, she began her training as a heavy commercial vehicle apprentice at a diesel mechanical workshop in the major agricultural centre of Moree in northern NSW. It’s an area where diesel, heavy vehicle and agricultural mechanical skills are in demand.

“It all started with my dad,” she said. “He’s a contractor and a truck driver for his own business and does a lot of mechanical work himself. From a very young age I would go to work with him, and I found it all very interesting. And as a young kid I didn’t mind getting covered in oil and grease!

“After I finished school, I had a gap year and worked on various properties driving a lot of heavy machinery. It was interesting to know how it all operated, and that’s when I decided to go for an apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic.”

However, after 12 months of work of work and training, things weren’t working out and she moved to Highfields, switching to a light vehicle apprenticeship and to training with the MTA Institute.

“It’s true that light vehicle was not my first pick but, honestly, it has been the best change,” she said. “For me, there is just more variety and we do a bit everything at Highfields. From tuning to mechanical servicing to wheel alignments to four-wheel-drives to suspension kits, even the occasional truck – we do it all, and I get to work on everything.”

In fact, that breadth of work opportunity has grown even more in recent weeks with Highfields’ owner, Craig Baills, recently launching a new workshop called Hi Mech Auto Solutions that will offer – in addition to general servicing – specialist testing, calibration and repair of the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) systems that are now commonplace on newer vehicles.

As a young woman making her way in an industry in which women have been under-represented, Gabrielle said that for her, gender wasn’t an issue.

“I don’t think of it as a male/female thing,” she said. “Obviously it is a male-dominated industry, but I don’t have a problem with that. I know where I am and who I am as a person. It’s your personality that drives you, not whether you are male or female. At the end of the day, we are here to do a job and we all have something in common – we love working on cars.

“It can be daunting for a girl, but all the guys I work with are respectful and kind, more than happy to help and more than happy to ask me for help. We treat each other as equals who are getting the job done.”

While only 21, Gabrielle is certain about her future in automotive and can see that the evolving nature of the industry is one to which she will have to adapt.

“I’d like to stay here at Highfields for a long time and gain experience in every field,” she said. “And I’d definitely look at auto-electrical training. The mechanical field has gone so far into the electrical area that a firm understanding of auto-electrical, and learning how different manufacturers’ systems work, is important.”

As the announcement of the MTAQ Apprentice of the Year nears, Gabrielle said she was nervous but excited about her prospects.

“I would love to get it, but all the finalists are just as deserving,” she said. “I’ll be happy whatever happens because we are all working really hard. At the end of the day it is great to see that there are really passionate mechanics out there willing to teach, and passionate apprentices out there who want to learn.”

Anthony Crouch

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Lockyer Valley Ford & Mitsubishi, Gatton

Anthony Crouch was the Apprentice of the Month for January 2020.

The now 18-year-old light vehicle apprentice at Lockyer Valley Ford and Mitsubishi in Gatton is in his third year of training and is proving to be an incredibly quick learner and enthusiastic student with a passion for cars that has, his trainer Colin Crawford said, made him an excellent apprentice.

” Anthony is an outstanding student both academically and technically. Out of all of my students, he would be the most passionate about his trade,” said Colin when Anthony won the Apprentice of the Month award. “Even his spare time is consumed with working on cars and equipment. He epitomises what a tradesman should be.”

Having started his school-based apprenticeship in Year 10, Anthony is cracking along and will likely be a tradesman by the age of 19. While many young people in Year 10 are wondering what they want to do with their lives, for Anthony there was never a question that a career in automotive was where he was headed.

“I have always been interested in cars,” he said. “My step-dad owned this business when it was called Carpenter Ford and working in automotive was 100 per cent where I wanted to go.

“I started here when I was in year 10 and did two days a week through years 10, 11 and 12 before coming on full time when school finished.”

There is plenty of work to be done at the Ford and Mistubishi dealership and Anthony likes to get stuck into whatever comes through the doors.

“I work on anything from servicing to replacement engines . . . a bit of everything. And I really enjoy it, it is awesome. Whatever is happening and needs doing is fine with me – it’s all about learning.”

This passion for working on cars doesn’t stop at the dealership shop doors. Waiting at home there is more ‘work’ to be done on a tidy collection of Fords.

“I have an XR6 ute and a 2010 FG, but I am working on restoring a 1961 Falcon. Every day when I get home I start working on that!”

Anthony said that the MTA Institute delivery of on-site training worked really well for him, but when he does finish his apprenticeship, the training won’t stop. As with all major manufacturers, Ford offers the chance for its technicians to get advanced training on its products.

“Training and learning is important and I’ll look to work towards becoming a Ford Master Technician,” said Anthony. “I’m a Ford boy at heart.”

With the Apprentice of the Month award already safely tucked away, Anthony said he was looking forward to the announcement of the Apprentice of the Year Award but was already very happy to be amongst the elite group of finalists.

“It is a big deal and I would be stoked to win but I am pretty proud at being a finalist,” he said.

Evelyn Hayes

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Scenic Motors, Beaudesert

Evelyn Hayes was the Apprentice of the Month award winner for February. The 19-year-old, second-year light vehicle apprentice has been working at Scenic Motors – a Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Ford dealership – since starting her training at the beginning of 2019, and both her employer and trainer have been impressed with her dedication to learning her craft.

“Evelyn deserves this recognition for showing such enthusiasm for her training and for the fact she is progressing so well,” said her MTA Institute trainer Andrew Bellars when Evelyn picked up the Apprentice of the Month award. “Her productivity in the workshop is exceptional and she is showing all the signs of being a very promising mechanic.”

Always interested in automotive thanks to her mum being a fleet allocator and her dad a truck driver who she would help work on his own cars at home, Evelyn was keen to get involved in the industry and at the start of 2019, she started her search for a light vehicle apprenticeship.

“I was just looking around and asking people if they needed anyone and Scenic took me on,” she said. “And the work here is a lot of fun. I work across all of Scenic’s brands and I’m always learning new things. I started by doing mostly servicing jobs but now I’m doing more complex work such as tyres and suspensions and so on and I am really enjoying it. And I enjoy the training too – the on-site training really works for me.”

As a young woman working in what is still a male-dominated industry, Evelyn said that apart from some physical challenges with the work, everything had been positive and she was unquestionably part of a great team.

“It can be a bit hard sometimes, when they ask to move a gearbox or engine around or something like that, but I find a way to work around those things – I find a smarter way,” she said. “It’s going really well, and I definitely fit in here.”

With a couple of years to go with her training, Evelyn said the important thing for her now was to keep studying, keep working hard, and put in the effort to complete her apprenticeship. Being an Apprentice of the Month winner and a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award – one of just 10 apprentices from the more than 2000 students the MTA Institute trains – is well-earned confirmation that her efforts are being recognised.

“I haven’t really thought about where my career might go, and at the moment I am concentrating on my apprenticeship, enjoying the work and the training and learning everything I can,” she said. “And to be a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award is a very big deal. I am very proud to be a finalist.”

Joshua Shearman

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Complete Mechanical Support, Moranbah

Joshua Shearman was the Apprentice of the Month award winner for March 2020. The 20-year-old completed his training at the beginning of the year and works as part of a team of seven tradespeople and apprentices at the workshop of Warren Allen’s Complete Mechanical Support in Moranbah, a mining town located a couple of hours southwest of Mackay.

Having finished his training in about three years, Joshua proved himself to be an excellent apprentice – one his employer said ahd grown and developed to the point that he was taking younger employees under his wing and explaining to them the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of a job.

Developing into a top-class apprentice and tradesperson was always likely for Joshua – with his father being both a light vehicle mechanic as well as a diesel fitter, he was immersed in the car world from the earliest age.

“I grew up around cars,” he said. “I was always mucking around the shed working on motorbikes and cars with my dad. I didn’t really know anything else and just knew I wanted to be a mechanic. I liked doing the work and I was doing it at home, so it seemed a natural thing to do.”

After leaving school early, Joshua found work as a technician’s assistant (TA) at a local workshop that, after about a year, offered him the chance to start an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, and about a year into his training, Joshua had to go looking for another job when that business closed, and eventually found a new home at Complete Mechanical Support. After a period settling in and proving himself, Joshua was offered the chance to restart his training with MTA Institute.

“I came in to speak to Warren and he put me on as a TA and then put me on to complete my apprenticeship,” said Joshua. “And the training was really good. I think the one-on-one training that MTA Institute uses is much better than learning in a classroom with other students. I didn’t really do that well in school, so the one-on-one training really helped me.”

Working at Complete Mechanical Support means Joshua trained and works on a wide variety of vehicles but, he said, light trucks were particularly plentiful.
“We do work on any vehicle here but, in the main, and seeing as this is a mining area, we do work on a lot of Landcruisers and HiLuxes,” he said. “You get to learn them inside and out, and I have a HiLux myself!”

Though he is now a qualified tradesman, like many young people entering the profession, Joshua recognises that the fast-changing nature of the auto manufacturers’ products means that constant training and updating skills is something that must be considered.

“I love what I do now, but I do think that I will look at doing more training,” he said. “The way cars are changing it would be a good idea to gain more skills and perhaps do something like auto-electrical training. Every year the cars that are appearing are different and there’s always more to learn.”

Considering the number of apprentices that MTA Institute trains, Joshua said it was a real achievement to be an Apprentice of the Month winner and he was proud to be an Apprentice of the Year finalist.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “I am stoked to be a finalist and to win would definitely mean a lot. It would be something I would really be proud of.”

Awngdan Daipha

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Springwood Mechanical, Brisbane

Awngdan Daipha, known as Dan, has travelled a long road to be where he is now – on the verge of gaining his Light Vehicle trade qualification.

The 35-year-old fourth-year apprentice works at Springwood Mechanical in Brisbane was the Apprentice of the Month award winner for May 2020. The story of how he got here is an inspirational one.

Born and brought up in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and having learnt English from St. Columban’s Catholic Priests and De La Salle Brothers, Dan moved to Australia in 2010, taking a job at Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Melbourne.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the first significant changes to the nation’s vehicle manufacturing capability were being announced and following on the heels of Ford and Holden, Toyota revealed in early 2014 that it was to close its factory.

For Dan, the closing of the plant was a blow, but started him on a new direction in his career journey – a direction that would see him offered a job, then an apprenticeship, in Queensland and, after a couple of false starts, an apprenticeship with Springwood Mechanical.

“When I lost my job at the Toyota Camry factory, I really wanted to stay in the industry and get an apprenticeship, but I think employers were looking for someone a bit younger than me. I tried for about 18 months to find someone to take me on but was always rejected,” said Dan.

“Then, a friend of a friend who ran a workshop in Brisbane offered me a job, so I moved up here in 2015. I worked there on a trial basis for a few months and was signed up for an apprenticeship, but just a few months later the business was sold and I was unemployed again.

“I managed to get another job, but in the second year of my apprenticeship that business was downsized, and I had to look elsewhere again,” added Dan. “I had a lot going on at the time – I had just got married and bought a house – so it was great when Springwood Mechanical took me on.

“I come from a farming background in northern Myanmar. There were not many cars there and when I was growing up my country was locked down and separated from other countries by a dictatorship, so the cars that were around were old. That meant the mechanical industry was not popular and there was not much opportunity.

“However, I really wanted to do that work, so I was very glad to get into the industry here.”

The sort of passion Dan has shown to pursue his automotive dream is enviable and he is proving to be an outstanding apprentice.

“He has overcome significant obstacles to achieve his lifelong goal, and he is an exceptionally good student with his on-the-job performance and his theoretical work,” said Andrew Bellars, Dan’s MTA Institute trainer.

And the training is unlikely to stop once Dan does achieve that goal of becoming an automotive tradesman.

“I really enjoy what I am doing, and I might start my own business one day,” he said. “But I will pursue further qualifications too. The industry is changing and I want to be equipped with as much knowledge as I can. It is a very interesting time.”

To be a finalist for the MTA Queensland’s Apprentice of the Year award was, said Dan, a real surprise, but something he hopes will inspire others.

“I was already very proud to have been named Apprentice of the Month. That was a big achievement and when I was starting, I never thought I would receive such an award,” he said. “To be a finalist is inspirational to myself and maybe to other people too because of my age. Some people might think they are too old to get involved. That was what I thought when I started and when I was thinking about working with people who were 16 or 18. But it was what I wanted to do.

“It has been a pretty bumpy road to get here but it is worth it, and I am very happy and proud.”

Ethan Reid

Qualification: Certificate III Automotive Body Repair Technology
Employer: Totally Classic Restoration

Ethan Reid was the apprentice of the month for May 2020.

The 23-year-old, second-year panel beating apprentice has been working at Totally Classic Restoration in Warana on the state’s Sunshine Coast for the past couple of years and for a young bloke with a passion for cars, it is a plum job.

That is because Totally Classic Restoration works on some pretty special vehicles and learning your trade while helping to build unique custom cars while also restoring some great motors from the past is a real gift.

“We specialise in restorations, but we do quite a lot of custom and high-end, one-off builds as well. It is a pretty good to be here!” said Ethan, when Motor Trader caught up with him for chat back in April.

“We have quite a few cars on the go at the moment. We’ve got an HK sedan drag car we are doing a bit of work on, we’re nearing the end of a ground-up restoration of a VK Commodore, we have a couple of Jags in, and a Chrysler by Chrysler sedan that is one of less than 500 ever made. We do some interesting stuff.”

Getting to work on cars was something Ethan has always wanted to do, but for a few years he grafted as a roofer. Then, one day, he decided that it was time to pursue the career he really wanted, and he approached Totally Classic owner Gerry Coppleman for a job.

“I have been passionate about old cars pretty much my whole life. While I was a fully qualified metal roofer, I really wanted to follow my dream and work on cars . . . and it was getting too hot on the roof!”said Ethan.

“I went and knocked on the Totally Classic door when I had a day off from roofing, but Gerry said he didn’t have any work for me at the time. I waited a while, came back and asked again, and then he called me back a couple of weeks after that and I started the following day. He gave me a shot and I worked for a bit over six months before starting my apprenticeship.”

While Ethan works primarily as a panel beating apprentice, he also gets to try his hand at some paint work – something he enjoys and has plans to take on as part of his career moving forward – and that has led to some pretty unique jobs.

“It is great to be able to do some painting, and I recently worked on a 1913 locomotive!” he said. “It was used in Buderim, then went to Townsville for a while before coming back down here. We had the opportunity to do some restoration on it and I was working for about 8 hours on the gun! Hopefully, soon it will be put on display in Buderim.”

The Totally Classic team is a small, dedicated unit working in a sector of the industry that demands those in it be dedicated to their work. And that is just what his colleagues are, said Ethan.

“There’s Gerry, a fully qualified panel beater, a fully qualified painter and me in the shop,” he said. “It’s a small team but we’re really passionate about what we do.
“There’s plenty of responsibility working on these vehicles, but we know what we are doing and what needs to be done and get on with it. It’s a great workshop, a great bunch of people and pretty special.”

Ethan has proven to be an outstanding apprentice and a worthy recipient of the Apprentice of the Month award and his spot as a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award. He was, he said, proud to be in the running for the accolade.

“It really is an honour when you consider the number of people the MTA Institute trains,” he said. “To be a finalist is a very nice feeling and I am definitely humbled to be there.”

John Bancroft-Arnott

Qualification: Certificate III Motorcycle Mechanical Technology
Employer: Nippon Performance, Brisbane

John Bancroft-Arnott was the Apprentice of the Month for June 2020.

The 29-year-old, fourth-year motorcycle mechanic apprentice works with Nippon Performance in Brisbane and has been with the business since it was established in 2017.

Nippon offers a wide range of services – from general maintenance to performance tuning to restorations – on bikes of all ages, and it is, said John, a special place to learn your trade.

“We specialise in Japanese motorcycles and we do performance work, dyno tuning, engine rebuilds – a lot of stuff. But not only do we work on the performance side of things, which is very cool, we are one of the few shops willing to work on old and vintage motorcycles. And the fact that I can go into the shop and work on a 50-year-old Ducati is special – it’s not often you get the chance to work on bikes like that.”

At 29, John is something of a latecomer to the industry, but motorcycles have long been a part of his life and he always wanted to learn more about them. The opportunity to turn that interest into a career came when he moved to Brisbane from NSW.

“I was always interested in bikes and everyone I had met who rides was pretty cool, so I knew I wanted to do something in the industry,” he said. “I was tinkering with the old bike I had – had serviced it and so on – but I’d never had the guts to tear right into it and do a full engine rebuild or anything like that. I wanted to learn more.

“I was friends with a guy at Ellaspeed – a motorcycle shop in the West End of Brisbane – and when I was searching for bike-related jobs, I saw one advertised at a West End motorcycle shop. I knew Ellaspeed was the only shop down there and it was a dream job, so I went down and had a chat with them.”

That chat was with Phil Thieme, now the owner of Nippon Performance, and a handful of months into his apprenticeship, John found himself moving across Brisbane to the suburb of Woolloongabba to help Phil establish the new business – one that quickly gained a reputation for the quality of its work on bikes new and old.

“I have learnt so much here, from how to set points on an old two-stroke enduro bike, to how to machine parts, to rebuild engines, to doing dynotune work on fuel-injection bikes – heaps of stuff. I work on all these jobs and while, for me, it almost feels a bit normal, everyone I talk to who is still doing their apprenticeship says, ‘Wow, that’s pretty special.’ I am thankful to be here, that’s for sure.”

The passion John has for the industry has been proven in his work and in his training – the one-on-one aspect of which he finds works well for him and which has, for the most part, been delivered by experienced MTA Institute trainer Ken Rahley.

“John is a very conscientious apprentice,” said Ken at the time that John received the Apprentice of the Month award. “He is always looking to expand his knowledge and is evolving into a highly skilled motorcycle mechanic. He is willing to invest in the equipment needed to be a well-rounded technician, has completed all of the tasks I have asked him to do, and is achieving a very high standard.”

With his apprenticeship almost completed, John is focused on a future which will allow him to get as much out of his time with Nippon as possible.

“Phil is my mentor I guess, and I am really happy doing what I am doing,” he said. “There is a lot I can learn at Nippon and I want to utilise my time here as best I can. I definitely want to stay here doing what I am doing and learning as much as I can while I can.”

As for the imminent announcement of the Apprentice of the Year, John said he was honoured to be a finalist and grateful for the help he has received over the years.

“I am proud to be a finalist – proud to have been chosen and nominated,” he said. “And I’m thankful that people were willing to think of me and give me the chance to give it a crack – Phil and everyone at work, Ken my trainer, and everyone who has helped me get here.”

Stephanie Williams

Qualification: Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
Employer: CB Automotive, Yatala

Following in your father’s footsteps is something to which many of us can relate, and for 21-year-old Stephanie Williams, following her auto-electrician dad into the automotive industry was all but guaranteed after spending many happy hours of her childhood working with him on the cars and hot rods that were their shared passion.

“I have always had that passion for cars,” said Stephanie. “For many years, my dad owned his own business in Browns Plains and we were always tinkering on the cars he had at the house and on the hot rods that we built together.”

That early exposure to the mechanical and auto electrical world would lead to a first step into the automotive industry as a receptionist/service advisor at a large dealership operation before a move into the workshop as a light vehicle apprentice came at the beginning of 2018.

After a couple of years, Stephanie moved to car and truck service provider CB Automotive in January 2020 as she looked to continue her education at a smaller business with a more tight-knit team and more varied work. That move included a shift to training with the MTA Institute – a step that Stephanie said worked well for her.

“I had heard a lot of great things about the MTA Institute and do prefer their way,” she said. “With one-on-one training, if there’s something you’re not sure about, no matter how small, it will be covered, and it’s easier to ask questions and for things to be demonstrated. I definitely recommend it.”

According to Andrew Bellars, Stephanie’s MTA Institute trainer, her determination has made her a standout apprentice.

“Stephanie is a new student of mine but in the training sessions we have had she has really impressed with her commitment,” he said. “She has a genuine passion for the industry and has her own project car. She speaks about that car with a lot of pride and, as her trainer, that is wonderful to hear.”

That car is a 1979 Holden Gemini and, after five years of ownership, it has been as much a training tool as it has been a way to get from A to B. While the Gemini is a satisfying, solo project, the day-to-day work at CB Automotive is fun too.

“I’m enjoying everything. Absolutely love it,” she said. “I don’t mind doing the bigger jobs and I do enjoy the auto-electrical side of things too. In fact, my plan is to earn the auto-electrical qualification as well. There are more electric cars coming, so having that qualification would definitely be a benefit.”

Stephanie said she had been determined from the start to be the best mechanic she could be and that being one of only a handful of women in the industry and in a workshop did not put her off her dream.

“A few people told me I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but my attitude was that I would prove everybody wrong,” she said. “And I couldn’t ask for a more supportive boss or a better team.

“I would recommend the industry to any woman,” she added. “You do have to be strong, but if you don’t take things too seriously, you’ll be good. There are a lot of supportive people in the industry.”

In another 18 months or so, Stephanie will have completed her apprenticeship and more training may be on the cards.

“I have looked at doing the heavy vehicle qualification as well as auto electrical,” she said. “And I’d like to branch into the performance side of things as well.

“Ultimately, I would like to start and run a successful business with my dad. That has always been the dream.”

Already achieving great things, Stephanie said that to be in the running for the Apprentice of the Year award was something of which she was very proud.

“It would mean the world to me but, if I don’t get it, I am happy to have got this far,” she said. “I am honoured to be a finalist and it is great to be recognised.”

Quintin Smith

Qualification: Certificate III Automotive Electrical Technology
Employer: SMW Group Rockhampton

Quintin Smith was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for August 2020.

The 23-year-old, fourth-year, auto-electrical apprentice works for the SMW Group in Rockhampton and has impressed with the top-notch quality of his work as he pushes towards completing what will, in fact, be his second apprenticeship – he completed his diesel fitter trade qualification with SMW a few years ago.

Working towards being dual-qualified gives an idea of Quintin’s passion for the industry but also the wide variety of work done at SMW Group. The company offers a wide range of services including mechanical servicing, engineering, fabrication and the manufacture of heavy equipment components for the mining industry.

“We do a wide range of work, but mostly mining equipment such as haulage trucks, dozers, graders, and ancillary machinery,” said Quintin. “We do go out to mining sites every now and again to do support work, but I do enjoy being in town because when equipment comes to the workshop it usually needs pretty major diagnostic work, which I enjoy.

“In the whole facility there are about 60-80 people at any one time on site – boiler makers, painters, fitters – and in our shop there’d be about 20 fitters, auto-electricians and machinists. We are a pretty big business and there is quite a bit going on.

“It is good working for a big company because you do get diversity in your work. You’re not working on just one type of equipment all the time but doing all manner of jobs such as diagnostic work, installs and fitouts and so on.”

With his dad being a diesel fitter, it’s no wonder Quintin first became interested in that work. However, like many of the younger generation who enter the industry, there is recognition that the emergence of electric vehicles and new digital technologies means that having auto-electrical skills will very useful.

“I started that first apprenticeship when I was about 16 and left school to take the opportunity,” said Quintin. “My dad has been a diesel fitter for many years and I liked the nature of the bigger equipment – it is different to what you see driving around town and you have to go out of your way to work on that type of equipment.

“Back then, I didn’t think about auto-electrical or knew much about it, but after doing the diesel trade I thought, ‘I like the electrical side a bit more’. I find auto electrical to be more involved and it’s a trade to build on. Electric vehicles are appearing and there are autonomous systems in mining and haulage, and all that is tied into auto-electrical.”

Quintin completed his first apprenticeship with another provider but has been working with the MTA Institute for all his current training. And the one-on-one training method used by the Institute has, he said, been particularly useful for him.

“That method is good because, with the trainer coming to where you work, you can discuss the jobs you are doing at that time. That is useful because there are differences between auto-electrical in a light vehicle workshop and the mining industry.”

With just a handful of modules left of his auto-electrical apprenticeship to complete, Quintin will soon be dual-qualified and looking to make the most of the skills he has worked hard to acquire.

“I enjoy working for SWB and I like the idea of working up through the ranks from apprentice to tradesman to senior tradesman and so on. And there are opportunities here, which is great.”

Winning the Apprentice of the Month award means Quintin is now a finalist for the MTA Queensland’s Apprentice of the Year award. He is, he said, a little nervous but proud to be a finalist.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “I’ve never had anything happen to me like this before and it is great to be recognised.”

Source: Motor Trader E-magazine (October 2020)

8 October 2020