At the beginning of 2016, the MTA Queensland launched the Auto Initiation program, a pre-vocational automotive course designed to deliver knowledge and skills fundamentals to job seekers in regional Queensland who are keen to enter the automotive workforce.
Delivered under the Queensland Government’s Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative, participants earn a Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Placement. However, the Auto Initiation program offers more than just training in automotive fundamentals. Critical elements of the program include the opportunity of work experience and training in ‘life skills’ such as literacy and numeracy, interview techniques and financial management. Together, this package of training gives the participants the confidence to be ‘job-ready’ and prepared to enter the industry as an apprentice.
The Auto Initiation program has been a tremendous success – delivering training to more than 260 students across the state from the Gold Coast to Gladstone, from Townsville to Hervey Bay. The latest course is being run through September and October in Mt Isa, in the far west of Queensland and the program has been met with an enthusiastic response from the participating students.
“I’m loving it. It is very informative,” says Ky King, a 25-year-old former chef from Mt Isa. “The course is really good because you get that experience with the hands-on side of it but you also get the theory side of it. And it starts from the beginning. We have worked hard on the fundamentals and covered bearings, seals, gaskets, auto electrics. We have also worked on learning all about tyres and tyre fitting and covered other areas such as customer service skills, phone etiquette and so on. It has been tremendous.”
Although always keen on cars – her father is in the trade – Ky originally chose a career that is a world away from that of engines, diffs and crankshafts.
“I’ve always been interested in cars but when I was younger I took a different path and became a qualified chef,” she says with a laugh. “However, I decided what I really wanted was to to get into mechanics.
“My dad loves the idea and I am actually doing my work experience at Power Automotive, where he works. It’s great to have that experience in a workshop –to see the day-to-day running of a shop and get some hands-on experience. I’ve been shadowing a mechanic, working on servicing and jobs such as engine changes. It has been really good.”
The Mt Isa Auto Initiation course is being run by senior MTA Institute trainer Jeff Mann utilising the resources of the MTAQ’s Mobile Automotive Training Unit – the ‘workshop on wheels’ used to deliver the course to regional areas – and he says the students have been an enthusiastic and hard-working group.
“The course has been going well,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of practical work and one of the students even brought in couple of cars that we’ve been able to work on, which was great. The guys are enjoying it and getting involved and learning new skills. They’re enthusiastic and everybody is having a go.”
The Auto Initiation course is, says Jeff, very important, allowing young people to get a taste of what is involved in life in a workshop and how even the non-mechanical aspects of the job are vital.
“This new generation coming through look at things differently,” he says. “And it’s vital they realise how something as simple as turning up everyday, how sweeping out a workshop and taking responsibility for cleaning, how wearing a smart uniform, is all important to a workshop. And this group of students have been good at grasping that.”
As for the students’ prospects, Jeff is hopeful that apprenticeships are well within the grasp of some, though he acknowledges that times are difficult.
“Things are a little tough here in Mt Isa,” he says. “The work situation is tight but there are a few places looking for apprentices in the next year or so and with this course and preparation behind them I have told everyone they should apply.”
For Ky King, as for the rest of the students, the Auto Initiation course is giving a clear pathway into the automotive industry and an understanding of what is required once they get there.
“The course has been great,” says Ky. “It definitely has given me the confidence to know this industry is for me. And that’s what I plan to do now, start chasing that apprenticeship!”