2021 MTA Queensland Apprentice of the Year Award Finalists

On the 20th of November, MTA Queensland will be hosting its Industry Gala at the Emporium Hotel, Southbank in Brisbane.

This year will mark the event’s return following its COVID-related cancellation in 2020, and it will be, once again, an evening that brings together all sectors of the automotive industry to celebrate the achievements of MTA Queensland members, MTA Institute apprentices, and the industry as a whole.

The evening will be hosted by Ben Davis from Channel Seven, who will be joined by special guest, Australian Olympian and gold medallist from the 2002 Winter Olympics, Steven Bradbury – an athlete whose story is one of years of hard work paying off in one of history’s most surprising, and well-deserved, victories.

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 edition, and over the next few pages, we focus on the incredibly talented group of finalists in the running 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 launched seemingly every day, they are taking their first steps into long careers full of opportunities and exciting challenges.

Each of these finalists excelled during their apprenticeship training and were 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, these finalists have already proved their outstanding qualities, their skill and determination, as well as their passion for the industry.

However, there can be only one winner of the Apprentice of the Year award and that person will be revealed on November 20. Congratulations to them all on their achievements so far, and good luck!

Jamie Lenkeit

Qualification: AUR30720 Certificate III in Outdoor Power Equipment

Employer during apprenticeship: Waldo’s Mobile Mower Doctor, Bundaberg

Jamie Lenkeit was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month award winner for October 2020.

Now 20 years old, Jamie completed his Outdoor Power Equipment apprenticeship in June this year and works as a qualified tradesperson with Waldo’s Mower Doctor in Bundaberg – the business with which he worked for the entirety of his training and which he joined while still at school.

Showing skills, ability, and a work ethic that encouraged his employers to say he was ‘a huge asset to our business’, Jamie is well-deserving of a spot as a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award.

The outdoor power equipment apprenticeship comprises training to diagnose, repair and service outdoor power engines, engine components, cooling and petrol fuel systems, clutch assemblies and drive management systems for lawn mowers, chainsaws, brush cutters, generators and other such equipment.

Jamie has been working at Waldo’s for nearly four years. A driven young student, he went looking for experience in the mechanical sector and was willing to put in the time to earn a spot in the workshop and the opportunity of an apprenticeship.

“I would come in after school, and did that for about six months,” he said. “When school finished, I started working here a couple of days a week and then started full time, and I was here for about six months before I started my apprenticeship through the MTA Institute.”

Having rocketed through his apprenticeship, Jamie is relaxed about what his next steps might be but his loyalty to the employers who took him on and gave him a chance is laudable.

“I would like to stay here and help my boss out and see what happens,” he said.

“I think I would like to start working on a few cars, building them up and selling them on – that is something I really enjoy doing.”

And he is certainly giving that a shot. He is currently working on four cars of his own – a V8 VZ Commodore, a V6 VZ Commodore, an Audi A4, and a Suzuki Sierra – all of which are registered and on the road.

With the naming of the Apprentice of the Year just around the corner, Jamie said it was an honour to be a finalist and will be attending the big night along with his boss Chris Walden. He was, he said, a little nervous but looking forward to the event.

“It is a big deal and to be recognised for doing all I could, would be good,” he said. “Honestly, it would be good to win but, whatever happens, to be named an Apprentice of the Month and to be a finalist for Apprentice of the Year is very special.”


Jake Kither

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Browns Autobahn, Nambour

23-year-old Jake Kither was presented with the Apprentice of the Month award in November 2020, impressing with his dedication to the job and his training, as well as his customer service skills and professional attitude.

He completed his light vehicle apprenticeship in March this year and continues to work for Browns Autobahn in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast.

The business is owned by Jake’s father Todd, so it might be expected that Jake would find his way into the automotive industry. However, while he has always had a passion for cars, becoming a mechanic was not the career he initially imagined for himself.

“I actually wanted to be a helicopter pilot,” Jake told Motor Trader when chatting about his Apprentice of the Month win. “I enjoy heading out west and thought that I would go for my pilot’s licence and perhaps try heli-mustering on a station out there. However, getting a helicopter licence is an expensive business and I needed to earn some money.”

The answer to earning that money? Work at dad’s workshop. Not that working there would be something new to Jake – he has been helping at the shop for years.

“I used to come in on my school holidays, from when I was about 9, and I would wash cars and sweep the floors and help out,” he said. “And every school holiday I would come in and I would learn a little more and do a few more things, and I developed a real passion for cars.

“I love working on them and I love driving them and after working here for a while, I asked dad for an apprenticeship.”

Working directly under the supervision of his dad has, Jake said, been a great experience.

“I thought working with dad might be a bit of a test, but it has been really good. We get on well and I learn a lot every day from him and the other guys here. He puts the pressure on sometimes but that makes you work harder and think more, and that is a good thing.”

Like the other Apprentice of the Year finalists, Jake acknowledges that electrified vehicles will play a part in his future career and said he is considering further training with that in mind.

“I am keen to look at an auto-electrical apprenticeship,” he said. “However, we don’t have an auto-electrician here yet, and we need one for me to do the training. When that happens, I will definitely be doing that.”

Jake will be attending the Industry Gala with a handful of family and friends and said he is proud to be a finalist and to be in the running for the Apprentice of the Year award.

“The other finalists are definitely deserving as well, so I am not holding my breath, but it would be an unreal achievement to get it,” he said. “If I don’t, well it’s not the end of the world. Obviously, it would be icing on the cake, but it is still huge getting to where I am now.”


Keith Forstman

Qualification: AUR32420 Certificate III Automotive Refinishing Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Flight Marine, Yatala

Keith Forstman was the Apprentice of the Month for December 2020.

The 32-year-old has worked at Flight Marine in southeast Queensland for five years and completed his spray-painting apprenticeship at the end of 2020.

12 months on and Keith is now the shop supervisor, a role that has seen him take on plenty of responsibility.

“It means that if something goes wrong, my boss comes looking for me!” he said with a laugh.

“Actually, what it means is that I make sure jobs are done on time, that quality control is right, that people turn up on time and so on. And I enjoy that extra responsibility very much.”

Throughout his training, Keith proved to be an outstanding student, so it’s no surprise to find he has moved swiftly into a position of responsibility.

“He has been one of my best apprentices,” said Alfio Rotolone, Keith’s MTA Institute trainer, when Keith was named as Apprentice of the Month. “He can adapt to any environment and task, and always performs to the highest standard. His attention to detail is off the chart.”

Keith made his move into spray painting after spending time as a warehouse storeman. While searching for a job that offered more opportunities for him and his young family, he learned that Dave Worley, owner of Flight Marine, was looking to take someone on.

Flight Marine offers spray-painting services and abrasive blasting services for a wide range of products, but its focus is on boats and for Keith, securing a role there was a great opportunity. However, he did not have expectations of becoming a tradesman.

“My uncle is a panel beater and spray painter, and I would visit his workshop when I was a child, but it never crossed my mind as a career option,” he said. “Dave gave me a go, but because of my age I didn’t come here thinking about an apprenticeship.

“I spent about 18 months helping out before Dave offered me that opportunity.”

While many of the skills required by those who paint boats are the same as for those who are automotive spray painters, there are some differences that, said Keith, take some getting used to.

“It’s not just the boat body,” he said. “There are a lot of parts to consider – including the roofs, tops, lounges and seats. 90 per cent of boats don’t have floors when we work on them, so you have to climb through the framework and be careful not to leave any marks in the paint. It can be quite tricky, and it is very satisfying seeing the finished job.”

Regarding his apprenticeship, Keith said the MTA Institute’s one-on-one training model had been a great experience and becoming a trainer himself was one career path he was considering.

“I think I would like to do that someday – a job where you are doing the work you enjoy but are passing on your skills,” he said. “However, I think I would also like to be a manager, or perhaps even own my own shop. To move up and manage this business when the boss is ready to put his feet up – that would be great.”

Keith will be at the Industry Gala along with his wife and, he said, he was very pleased to be a finalist and keen to be able to hang another award on his wall.

“I am definitely nervous, and maybe my age may go against me as I am a bit older and have had time to achieve a little bit more,” he said. “But I have done a lot in a short amount of time, and I would really like to win. It would mean every risk I took, and all the hard work has paid off.

“And it would make me very proud and would make my wife very proud, and she played a big part in getting me through. However, I also know that whatever happens, I am certainly heading in the right direction.”


Ryan Smoothey

Qualification: AUR31120 Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: East Coast Truck & Trailer

Ryan Smoothey is one of the youngest Apprentice of the Year finalists.

The Apprentice of the Month for December 2020, the now 18-year-old Heavy Commercial Vehicle apprentice is scheduled to complete his training soon and has been working for Glen Alexander at East Coast Truck & Trailer in Gympie for the past four years.

Ryan started his career in the industry via a school-based apprenticeship, although that was with another business that offered agricultural equipment services. Unfortunately, that business went under, leaving Ryan looking for another job and he found a new employer through sheer persistence.

“I went to what I thought was every single one in town, and they all said, ‘We just don’t have the work to take someone on’.” said Ryan. “One day, I was going for a drive with one of my mates and I spotted this shop, East Coast Truck & Trailer, with a few trucks parked outside. I went in, ended up talking to Glen and he said, ‘I’m looking for an apprentice, I’ll see you here tomorrow at 7am’!”

Working for Glen at East Coast Truck & Trailer, and shifting over to a Heavy Commercial apprenticeship, has exposed Ryan to a huge variety of mechanical work. East Coast offers all mechanical services – including engine rebuilds and modifications – on everything from utes to major mining trucks and everything in between.

Ryan said that working at East Coast Truck & Trailer is a tremendously educational and enjoyable experience.

“Since I was really young, I enjoyed pulling stuff apart and putting it back together,” he said. “I started with my pushbikes, then motorbikes, and I then started building motorised go-karts and so on. It went from there.

“And I love it here,” he added. “I was working on clutches and engine rebuilds and all that sort of stuff in my second year, and with only me and Glen working here, there’s lots of opportunity to work on interesting jobs. Glen is really talented and has taught me so much and I now do full engine rebuilds, as well as clutches and gearboxes, by myself.”

With his apprenticeship nearly over, Ryan said his plans start with a commitment to East Coast Truck & Trailer.

“I have been offered work at the mines, and I think I would like to start my own business one day, but I’d like to work for Glen for a few years,” he said.

“He has taught me everything I know, and I’d like to give a bit back to him if I can.”

Ryan will be attending the Industry Gala with his partner and Glenn, and said he was looking forward to the night and the announcement of the Apprentice of the Year winner.

“At the end of the day, if I get, that is cool, if not, good on whoever does get it,” he said. “It is a big honour whatever happens, but if I were to win, it would mean that all the hard work has paid off, and that would be great.”

Samuel Hennings

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology.

Employer during apprenticeship: Brisbane 4WD specialists.

Current employer: Wayne Park Auto & Tyres, Brisbane.

Go back 10 years and being a finalist for the MTA Queensland Apprentice of the Year award was probably not something the now 33-year-old Samuel Hennings would ever think possible.

That’s because, back then, Samuel was working in healthcare. In fact, he spent several years as a pharmacist, then briefly worked in dentistry, before joining the automotive industry.

Like many people, it took Samuel a while to realise what he really wanted to do. Unlike many others, however, he took the chance to leave the security of the career he had built to dive into something new.

“Out of school, I did what people thought I should do, and so I became a pharmacist and worked in a hospital for about six years after I graduated,” he said. “It was good money but not particularly satisfying, and so I started looking around for something else. I started studying dentistry and did that for about six months but realised I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

“It was my girlfriend who said I should look out of the box a bit and start to think about what I was really interested in.

“When I was growing up, my dad was always tinkering with the cars he had, and I have always been interested in how things work and was starting to do some things on my own car. So, I approached Brisbane 4WD about doing some work experience, and a couple of months later I started the apprenticeship.”

According to his MTA Institute trainer Roger West, Samuel was an outstanding employee and student, showing real passion for the work and a commitment to ‘get his hands dirty and give everything a go’.

That’s an attitude every employer values, as it is, no doubt, by Samuel’s current employers at Wayne Park Auto & Tyres in Brisbane.

Having recognised that the industry is going through a technological revolution, Samuel will get some good exposure to high-tech machinery at Wayne Park as the business offers not just repair, maintenance and other services for all vehicle makes, but specialises in prestige brands including Porsche, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes – leaders in the electrification revolution whose EVs and hybrids will, in time, be seen at independent workshops.

“I haven’t come across a full electric car yet but have seen a few hybrids,” said Samuel. “It’s a bit new for everyone in the trade – unless you work for Toyota or Tesla – so I will have to do some training.

What we do get are a lot of classic high-end vehicles coming through, including old Ferraris and Porsches. The older mechanics usually work on them, but I did work on a Lotus Elise the other day, so that was special.”

Regarding the Industry Gala and the Apprentice of the Year award, Samuel said he was honoured to be a finalist and that was an achievement in itself.

“I am sure whoever wins will deserve it. I am just going to enjoy the night,” he said. “It would be amazing to win though, and it certainly would be a huge achievement to shine amongst so many good candidates.”


Joshua Frampton

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Garry Crick Nambour

For many young people, deciding what they want to do with their lives and what career they want to pursue, is a difficult decision.

Interests change over the years, and it is, one suspects, unusual for a young teenager to know what they want and have a plan, stretching out over more than a decade, that maps out their path to get there.

Joshua Frampton is one such individual.

Now 26, the fourth-year light vehicle apprentice with the Cricks Maroochydore dealership was the Apprentice of the Month for March 2021 and his long-term planning has seen him not only near completion of his apprenticeship but also earn a business degree – all with the goal of owning a mechanical workshop business of his own.

“I’ve had the plan to open my own mechanical and restoration shop since high school,” Joshua told Motor Trader when discussing his Apprentice of the Month win.

“Originally, I did think about going straight to train as a mechanic, but my father – who spent decades in the industry – told me that I should look at owning my own business. So, that’s what I planned. I worked at it, went to uni and completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and International Business and then went for the apprenticeship.”

Such commitment is paying off, and Joshua’s drive has prompted his bosses to say that he goes ‘beyond in all aspects of his duties,’ and commits ‘to being the best he can at all times.’

Working for the Cricks Group means Joshua has exposure to a wide range of makes and models of cars, as well as to a highly successful business operation – the company represents 16 automotive brands in five dealership locations across Queensland’s Sunshine Coast region.

Currently at the Cricks’ Wises Road dealership in Maroochydore – which sells Renault, Suzuki and Ssangyong brands as well as used vehicles – Joshua has also done a stint at another of the company’s sites that sells Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, and VW. However, his recent focus has been on Renault, with whom he has completed the Level One technician training course.

The Renault program, recognised by the company worldwide, has three stages which lead to a master technician grade called COTECH. Considering Renault is one of the brands at the leading edge of vehicle technology, including electrification, it’s a valuable program to complete.

“Cricks is one of the highest-regarded companies here on the coast and it has been invaluable working in a place like this,” said Joshua. “The Renault training is recognised worldwide, and I will pursue EV training when the opportunity comes.”

Joshua said he was excited at being a finalist for Apprentice of the Year and confident that he had done all he could to be in the running for the award.

“I am proud to have got where I am and have the Apprentice of the Month award sitting next to my bed at home,” he said. “To win the Apprentice of the Year award would be a great personal achievement. It would be great to be recognised for the effort I’ve put in, it would look great on the CV, and it would be great too for my parents and my partner, as it might make up for all those long nights and stressful days!”


Klarah Cassar-Tan

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Mercedes-Benz Sunshine Coast

Klarah Cassar-Tan was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for April 2021 and is the sole woman amongst this year’s Apprentice of the Year finalists.

The 18-year-old light vehicle apprentice is in the third year of her training and has been working for Mercedes-Benz Sunshine Coast since 2018.

She has made quite an impression, both as an employee and as a student, with both her bosses at Mercedes-Benz and her MTA Institute trainer commenting on her dedication, enthusiasm, and work ethic.

Having always been fascinated by cars – she was an avid matchbox model car collector as a kid – Klarah got the opportunity to work with Mercedes while she was still at school. It was, she said, a chance she leapt at.

“My school was organising work experience opportunities, and when we were asked what we would like to do, I instantly said motor mechanics. It has always interested me, and I really wanted to have a go with Mercedes-Benz, so I put in an application,” she said. “I went to do a week of work experience and was then offered a school-based apprenticeship. It was all very exciting.

“I have been here since August 2018, when I was doing one day a week as part of that school-based apprenticeship and started here full time in July 2019. And I have no regrets. I’m very lucky to be working for Mercedes-Benz. I love it so much.”

Klarah works on a wide variety of jobs, and being this is Mercedes-Benz, those jobs mean working on some advanced vehicles. And with the company having revealed the first of its EQ range of electric vehicles, that technology is something Klarah is keen to work with when the opportunity arises.

“Mercedes cars are very complex with lots of technology and there’s always something new to learn. It keeps me busy, and I love it,” she said. “We do have electric vehicles coming out now, and though I personally haven’t worked on one, I would love to get into that as well. That’s where things are headed.”

While her passion for the work will ensure a long and rewarding career in the industry, Klarah has a couple of pathways in mind that she has looked at pursuing.

“I would love to open and run my own workshop one day.” she said. “Or go to Germany to work and build cars. That would be awesome as well. I like to aim high.”

Klarah will be attending the Industry Gala along with her partner and her mum, dad and sister, and she is excited and a little nervous as the Apprentice of the Award announcement gets closer. To win, she said, would be very special and not just because such an accolade would look good on a CV.

“It would be very special to be named Apprentice of the Year,” she said. “I know that one of the prizes for the winner is two weeks’ work experience with Triple Eight Racing, and that would mean the world to me. And I know too, that if I were to win the award it would mean something to other young women wanting to get into the industry.

“However, it must be hard to choose who will take home the award,” she added. “I have read about the other finalists, and they all seem awesome.”


Jake Chitham

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Jax Tyres & Auto Toowoomba

Jake Chitham was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for May 2021.

The 25-year-old, who works for Jax Tyres & Auto Toowoomba, completed his light vehicle apprenticeship earlier this year and as well as proving to be an outstanding student, he is, according to his employer, an equally outstanding employee who ‘loves his job, is 100 per cent involved, is great with customers and goes beyond his normal job role’.

Jake knows well the operation of the Jax shop having worked at the Toowoomba location for nearly 10 years, starting there as a junior tyre fitter when he was 16. He had actually started his journey in the automotive industry even earlier than that, having left school to take a job as a trade assistant at a Yamaha dealership.

“Things were a bit quiet there and I was put off,” he said. “But one day, as I was on my way to go dirt-bike riding, I saw a sign outside of the Jax workshop that read, ‘Junior Tyre Fitter Wanted.’ I had my bike riding outfit on and had grease everywhere because I had been working on the bike, but I came in, talked to the owners, and they told me to come in the next Monday. I’ve been here ever since.”

Over the years, Jake was involved in just about every aspect of the business. He started out tyre fitting, moved into wheel aligning and then into sales, before moving back into the workshop.

“I basically did a bit of everything, and then the opportunity came around for the apprenticeship and I jumped on that straight away,” he said.

While it has been just six months since Jake completed his training, his decade of experience has seen him take on a mentoring role for other apprentices in the workshop as well as other leadership roles. But like many young people, he recognises the value in continually learning and is aware of the direction the industry is taking.

“I appreciate not being called the apprentice anymore. It’s good to have the tradesman title!” he said. “But I may look at doing a motorcycle mechanic apprenticeship, and the owner here is looking into some training for hybrids and EVs, even though we don’t do a lot of them yet.

“I can also say that I am still learning a lot,” he added. “I’ve probably learned as much in the last six months as during my apprenticeship, especially in diagnostics and the use of scan tools and so on.”

With the Industry Gala and the presentation of the Apprentice of the Year award just around the corner, Jake said he would be attending the event with his family and employers, and while hopeful he might win the award, he said it was clear the other finalists were very deserving.

“I guess I have as good a chance as anyone,” he said. “But I know everyone has put in the hard work to be there. Really, it’s a great achievement being a finalist, but I certainly would be honoured to have that title and the recognition that I put in the hard yards during my apprenticeship.”


Curtis Vidulich

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Three Point Classic, Mount Gravatt

Curtis Vidulich was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for June 2021.

The 25-year-old, who works for Three Point Classic in Mount Gravatt in Brisbane, is in the third year of his light vehicle apprenticeship and proving to be an excellent student, impressing with his work ethic, attention to detail and skill level.

“Curtis is clever, well beyond his years,” said James Dixon, Curtis’ MTA Institute trainer. “He is always up to date with his training and is doing work that fully qualified apprentices are doing, and doing it better.”

Working in automotive was not originally something that was on Curtis’ radar. In fact, just a few years ago, he was studying computer games design at university.

“This is a bit of a change, but I found I didn’t really enjoy sitting around, working on a computer, and realised I wanted to do something more physical,” he said.

“I have friends who know a lot about cars and who work on their own cars and decided I’d like to find out more.

“I was actually at the computer store right next door to Three Point Classic here at Mount Gravatt, and my parents convinced me I should just walk in and ask if they were looking for an apprentice. So, that’s what I did.”

That spur-of-the-moment conversation went well, and Curtis started at Three Point the next day, completing four weeks of work experience before signing up for an apprenticeship.

Nearly three years on, Curtis is working on some of the industry’s most technically advanced cars as Three Point Classic – which has four service centres across south-east Queensland – specialises in the servicing, maintenance and repair of high-end European vehicles from Mercedes, BMW, Audi and VW, as well as British manufacturer Morgan.

Working on these cars, particularly Mercedes, has seen Curtis develop a particular skill for diagnostics – with his employer noting that he has ‘an advanced understanding of complex Mercedes-Benz operating system’ – and he carries out diagnostic work in a number of other areas.

“We do everything here – servicing and tyres, transmissions, cylinder heads, and a lot of CANBUS diagnostic work,” said Curtis. “And I do enjoy that side of things.”

And with Mercedes, BMW, Audi and VW now fully committed to manufacturing electric vehicles, there’s more advanced technology headed in Curtis’ direction.

“Electric vehicles are on their way, and we are considering the training that we will need to take and that will definitely need to be done,” he said.

Curtis said he will be attending the Industry Gala event with work colleagues and his mum, dad, and brother, and while proud to be a finalist, he has not yet considered just what being named the Apprentice of the Year would mean.

“I really haven’t thought that far ahead,” he said. “But I am looking forward to the night and am confident but nervous!”

Win or not, when he completes his apprenticeship, Curtis said he will stay on with Three Point Classic for the foreseeable future. It is, he said, a shop where he can develop his skills further.

“I am really happy working here,” he said. “It is a brilliant workshop and the people I work with and for are all great people.”


Dion Brown

Qualification: AUR30620 Certificate III Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: Toowong Mazda

Dion Brown was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for July 2021.

The 22-year-old has worked at Toowong Mazda for the entirety of his training, starting work with the company in 2016, and completed his light vehicle apprenticeship in August this year.

During that time, Dion impressed with his efforts during training and has become a highly valued member of the Toowong Mazda team.

“Dion has been a great student,” said Keith Minchin, Dion’s MTA Institute trainer. “He gets along very well with his colleagues and is always willing to lend a hand wherever it’s needed. He’s a very approachable guy and others tend to gravitate towards him if they need any help in the workshop.”

Though he had always been interested in cars, having a career in the industry was not, initially at least, something to which Dion had given much thought.

“My dad used to work on cars on the weekend, so I was always interested,” he said. “But I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after school. However, I was working on my own car a lot and really enjoyed it, so I thought perhaps I should pursue it.

“I finished school in 2016 and my friend had a job as a car washer at Toowong Mazda. He got moved up to being an apprentice and asked if I wanted the job as a washer, which I took. Then, in September of 2017, they said I was doing a good job and was a hard worker and offered me an apprenticeship.”

Dion said he particularly enjoys the more technical aspects of the job.

“I do like working on engines and doing the diagnostic work,” he said. “I don’t mind doing services, but I’d rather think about what is happening and try to figure out what a problem is and how to fix it. I do enjoy that.”

Given the complexity of modern cars, the diagnostic and problem-solving skills he has learned and wants to develop further will be extremely useful.

Fortunately, Mazda appears to be well prepared to upskill its technicians.

Like many young apprentices, Dion is aware that the changing technology of the industry means that upskilling will likely be a constant in his career, and that working for an innovative company such as Mazda – and with the team at Toowong – makes it a great place to launch his career.

“Working here has been great,” he said.

“I wouldn’t mind trying to become a Master Technician at Mazda, doing more in-depth training on their vehicles and their technology, and taking that extra step to learn even more and see how far I can go.”

Dion said he was looking forward to the Industry Gala and will have the support of his partner and family on the night. He is, he said, nervous but confident, and that being a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award is an honour that reminds him how far he has come.

“You’ve got to be in to win it,” he said. “When I first started my apprenticeship I was obviously new and didn’t know much, but being where I am now shows that the bosses saw a lot in me and that really boosts my confidence for the future.”


Joshua Middlebrook

Qualification: AUR31120 Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Employer during apprenticeship: BMAS Biloela

Joshua Middlebrook was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for August 2021.

At the time, the 24-year-old had just completed his Heavy Commercial Vehicle apprenticeship but had accomplished plenty more in the four years working for BMAS Biloela, including completing a light vehicle apprenticeship, qualifying as an Approved Examiner, gaining his automotive air conditioning licence, and become a Massey Ferguson trained technician.

While Joshua has now moved on from BMAS Biloela, the skills he accumulated there certainly came in useful, with the business offering a wide array of services – including mobile repair and maintenance services to the many agricultural businesses in the central Queensland farming region – enabling Joshua to work on everything from power equipment to cars, and from trucks to tractors.

“We work on pretty much anything that has an engine, and we also do hydraulic rams, some auto electrical work, air conditioning, and a bit of fabrication too,” said Joshua when interviewed by Motor Trader for the Apprentice of the Month award. “I work in just about every area, and I like that. It’s really varied work and you don’t know what you’re going to be doing the next day”

Joshua’s interest in mechanical work began when he was a teenager working on a farm where there was plenty of machinery to maintain and repair.

“Anything that was broken down we tried to fix, and I thought it was pretty cool to be working with my hands, be out in the sun and not sat in an office,” he said.

“Then I learned that BMAS were looking for a TA, so I came down, did a couple of other things so they could see what I knew and what I was like with tools and so on, and they offered me an apprenticeship.”

While very interested in working on the heavy vehicle side of the industry, Joshua was keen to get moving in a mechanical career and took on the light vehicle apprenticeship that BMAS offered, completing that training in 2020.

Thanks to his trainer at the time – who knew of Joshua’s interest in heavy vehicles – Joshua was also exposed to plenty of heavy commercial training units at the same time, a move that enabled him to complete a heavy vehicle apprenticeship relatively quickly when one became available.

While he is now dual-qualified, Joshua’s enthusiasm for the industry, and his recognition that it is becoming more technologically advanced, means he will look to expand his skills further.

“I’m all for learning new things and I will definitely be looking at auto-electrical training at some point,” he said. “If you look at modern engines, they are completely different to those from back in the day and there are that many modules and computers on them now. So that is the next trade I would like to do.

“You can never stop learning. You have to keep up to date with modern gear that is being rolled out.”