To become a tradesperson in the automotive industry means taking on an apprenticeship that demands dedication, hard work, patience and skill. It isn’t an easy path to take and every apprentice deserves recognition for the challenging but rewarding road they have chosen to travel.
However, each year, MTA Queensland and the MTA Institute searches for one apprentice to be named Apprentice of the Year.
With more than 1500 students being trained by the Institute, finding one amongst so many standouts is a difficult task and this year the shortlist of nominees comes down to the eight outstanding students who you will meet over the next few pages – all of whom were named as an Apprentice of the Month during the past year. Each of them have proven to have the ‘right stuff’ – the passion and drive to carve out a career in our industry.
The nominees are all winners, of course, and each receives a double pass to the Gold Coast 600 V8 event which includes, thanks to MTA Queensland’s partners at MTAA Super, a tour of the Triple Eight Race Engineering garage. The Apprentice of the Year, who will be announced at the MTA Queensland President’s Ball on October 28, will receive not only the title but other special prizes to announced on the night.
The President’s Ball is the signature event for Queensland’s automotive industry. Hosted by actor, writer, comedian and car nut Shane Jacobson, and featuring special guest speaker Craig Lowndes OAM of Team Vortex, the evening will be the perfect way to acknowledge and recognise a group of highly-talented apprentices.
Congratulations to all the nominees. We’ll see you at the Ball!
Elliott Lemmon has a passion for motorsport. The 20-year-old, fourth-year light vehicle apprentice with British vehicle specialist Greg Tunstall Mechanical in Ormiston spent years racing karts and recently has moved to working with racing teams. Those teams include MTA Queensland’s racing outfit and Elliott has spent many hours helping to prepare the team’s car for the 2017 Queensland Hyundai X3 Series Championship and worked in pit lane at every race meeting.
When, at the beginning of this year, MTA Queensland began looking for apprentices to become part of its racing team, Elliott grabbed the opportunity.
“Career-wise I am interested in racing and that’s why the MTAQ Racing Team project leapt out at me,” he said. “Being part of the support crew is a great extension to my apprenticeship and I can take what I learn during the experience back to the workshop.”
Elliott’s enthusiasm for motorsport is mirrored in his passion for the trade and for cars in general (he has several of his own) and he has impressed with his dedication both to his work and his apprenticeship.
“At the shop, we work on vehicles such as Land Rovers, MG’s, Jags and Triumphs,” he said. “I get to do a bit of everything and I like every aspect of both the job and the training. This is what I want to do, so doing the bookwork and the practical work is something I really enjoy.”
“Elliott is an excellent student,” said MTA Institute trainer James Dixon. “His attention to detail is brilliant, he lives and breathes cars and is always willing to try something new. He faces new challenges head-on every day and will always put himself forward to help his peers in the workshop.”
And not only in the workshop. One incident outside of work highlights Elliott’s willingness to help. When he came across a couple whose Prado had broken down, Elliott got the vehicle working long enough for it to be driven to a nearby service station where he could take a better look at the problem. The extremely happy ‘customers’ wrote a note to Greg Tunstall Automotive that any employer would be proud to receive.
It’s this level of commitment that has seen Elliott nominated for the Apprentice of the Year award – a nomination that, he said, will drive him to be better.
“It a big motivator,” said Elliott of his nomination. “I have put in a lot of work and my New Year’s resolution this year was to get on a race team and to focus on my job and career. For this to come along as well is great.”
James Corbett was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for August 2017. The 21-year-old, 4th-year, Light Vehicle apprentice has been working at Auto Giant in Brendale for three years and his passion for the industry makes him a future tradesman to watch.
“I’ve been training James since he started his apprenticeship and he has come a long way,” said Kevin Ryan, James’ MTA Institute trainer. “He is really putting in the effort and the passion he shows for the job is great to see.”
“He is a really good kid,” added Tony Fasano, James’ employer at Auto Giant. “He is really enthusiastic and some day will have his own business and be doing his own thing. He goes the
extra step, he keeps going, finds the information he needs, does things outside the circle and has the drive to succeed.”
A car enthusiast since he was a child, James made a late decision to turn to the auto industry – a decision that saw him leave university where he was studying Information Technology (I.T.).
“As a kid, I was always tearing things down and putting them back together, and when I got my first car I worked on that a lot,” he said. “I went to university to study I.T. but I discovered that I needed to work on cars more! So, I became a tyre fitter and then came to Auto Giant as an apprentice mechanic.”
Working at Auto Giant means James gets to train and work across a wide range of disciplines and on an equally wide range of vehicles. And given owner Tony’ Fasano’s long background in motorsport, there has also been the chance to get involved there as well.
“We work on a lot of different vehicles and do electronics, upgrades and modifications, diagnostics, airbag suspension and I was involved in prepping a TA2 race car and worked the pit crew at the track,” said James. “I like the wide range of stuff we do here and I think, as a mechanic, you need to learn everything, especially as in the future we can expect to see electric cars and so on.”
It’s forward thinking like this, that makes it clear James’ ambitions of owning his own business will likely be fulfilled, and also explains his Apprentice of the Year award nomination.
“A lot of hard work goes into everything I do,” he said. “It is not always an easy road as a mechanic but you get stronger from the speed bumps. I am proud to be nominated.”
The MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for January 2017, 25-year-old father-of-two Michael Humphries completed his light vehicle apprenticeship in July. Now a dual-qualified tradesman – he also has his spray painting trade – Michael is a vital member of the team at Townsville Offroad Centre where he has worked for nearly five years under the guidance of his brother and business owner Roger Humphries.
Highly skilled with a tremendous work ethic, Michael’s abilities brought high praise from his MTA Institute trainer Guy Mckenzie during his apprenticeship.
“He works very hard and he is brilliant on the tools – better than many tradesmen I have met,” said Guy when Michael was named Apprentice of the Month.
“I wish I had him as a mechanic when I had my own business!”
Proof of Michael’s ability lies in the work he is accomplishing. As an apprentice, he completed a total engine and transmission conversion on a Nissan Navara, converting it from a diesel to a supercharged LS3 V8 – work that included firewall modifications, fabrication of all engine and gearbox and cab mounts as well as suspension modifications and the exhaust system.
It’s the type of work that is common for the team at Townsville Offroad Centre – a place where Michael is able to use all the skills he has learned.
“I do some spray painting and some fabricating, and we do a fair bit of custom work here,” he said. “I am fabricating as we speak actually – converting a leaf-spring Hi-Lux to one with Patrol diffs and coil-overs. I enjoy that and the welding side of things, though the grinding gets a bit tiring, especially up here in Townsville during the summer months!”
With his days as an apprentice now behind him, and a possible partnership with his brother in the business now on the cards, Michael said he was shocked to be nominated for MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year – especially as the number of apprentices trained by the Institute, some 1500, was so large.
“I was a bit surprised when I got the call but extremely proud to be nominated,” he said. “I didn’t realise the scale of it – that there were that many trainees. It is great and my family and colleagues are all proud and pretty impressed too. It is pretty cool.”
22-year-old Corby Marshall is a 4th-year apprentice who has been working with ACM Autobody for the past three years. He has become a valued member of the ACM team – an apprentice who, according to his manager Daryn Foster, delivers quality work at tradesman level, excels at problem solving, and has a work ethic that sees him put in extra hours to finish jobs and learn new skills.
“Corby performs well with the team in a very demanding environment,” said Daryn. “He plans and executes his work to achieve the right result and is very reliable and trustworthy.
“He has been trusted to open up and move all vehicles to their next station every morning, he cleans the workshop and does what he is asked and does it well. He also has the best attendance record of our 12 staff members which, embarrassingly, includes myself!
“He is also trusted to work on late model prestige vehicles where quality is paramount, and he has recently taken the initiative to learn paintless dent repair.”
Having initially been interested in the mechanical trade, Corby jumped at the opportunity to move into panel beating, and his enthusiasm for the trade is clear.
“I am really enjoying it,” he said. “It is very satisfying to see a job finished well and see customers happy to get their car back.”
Keen to expand his skills beyond that of his apprenticeship, Corby has developed an interest in paintless dent repair (PDR) – an interest so strong that he hopes to one day start his own PDR business. That interest stems from an incident involving his father’s car.
“My dad had a brand-new car and was caught in a hail storm and I was impressed with how quickly the PDR company was able to turnaround the car without paint or bog,” he said. “It is a bit of an art form and I have been practising.
“I am definitely looking at PDR as a business at some point but that is a few years away. I want to get experience in panel beating, then do some PDR training and perhaps work in a PDR shop before starting up on my own.”
Being nominated for the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year award was, said Corby, a big surprise and one that he is proud to have achieved.
“I was pretty shocked – I didn’t think I would be nominated for something like this. It caught me completely by surprise and I feel pretty lucky. I might have to go and get a lotto ticket!”
Michael Morgan was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for February 2017. The 22-year-old is now in the fourth year of his motorcycle apprenticeship and has been working at Morgan Motors in Emerald for 18 months with his father, business owner Dean Morgan, and MTA Institute trainer Peter Jaensch overseeing his training.
Having already completed a diesel fitting apprenticeship, Michael has, thanks to recognition of prior learning, been able to progress rapidly through his qualification and that experience means he knows what is expected of him.
“Michael always has his theory book work done well in advance, his practical demonstrations are always well presented and accurate, and his answers to the oral questions show his depth of knowledge and understanding,” said Peter. “Michael is passionate about his job and it shows in the quality of his work.”
Having grown up around motorcycles, Michael said it was a great to now be working on them and there was plenty to learn about his new craft.
“While some of the subjects are new to me and I have not had any exposure on them from working on trucks, others I have had quite a lot of experience on,” he said. “And I’ve been down to Melbourne for some Honda-specific training, which has given me exposure to road bikes that we don’t see a lot of here.”
Much of Michael’s work revolves around machines such as ATVs and farm bikes, but he does get to challenge himself from time to time – including on his own, unusual, Nissan Patrol.
“That has given me a few headaches,” he said. “It has an XR6 Turbo and makes 600hp at the flywheel. I bought it already built and a while ago I discovered a 3-inch crack in the number one cylinder. That’s not good! So, I sourced a new engine, swapped a few bits and have started putting it back together. I’m probably challenging myself more than I’d like with it. It would be all right to do a build like that if you wanted to – but this one’s a bit out of necessity!”
As for the Apprentice of the Year nomination, Michael said he was extremely proud to be chosen as one of eight nominees and was looking forward to putting on a tuxedo for the President’s Ball.
“I wasn’t aware MTA Institute had so many apprentices, so I am very honoured and very grateful to be nominated,” he said. “I’ll get dressed up and be there, and will try to clean the dirt from under my fingernails!”
Fourth-year Automotive Refinishing apprentice David Nahow was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month for May 2017.
The 21-year-old has been working at Bill Dingle Smash Repairs in Ayr, south of Townsville, since starting his apprentice and, with the guidance of MTA Institute trainer Shane Palmer and business owner Paul Dabelstein, has impressed with his enthusiasm and drive as well as the quality of his work.
“David is very efficient, keen to learn and his work ethic is excellent,” said Shane. “And he is doing tradesman-quality work. He really is at that level.
“Part of the reason for that is the people he works with – the quality of the tradespeople there is very high and that does rub off on an apprentice. There’s a lot of talent in that workshop and David’s progress has been remarkable.”
David started work in the industry straight out of school, landing an apprenticeship with long-established Bill Dingle Smash Repairs after completing a week of work experience.
“I really enjoyed that first week, and I have enjoyed it ever since,” he said. “I work on everything from prep to the finished product and the satisfaction I get from doing a job well and seeing a perfect finish, or learning what I can do better, is great. The training with Shane is great and Paul is a big part of that too.”
“David is just a natural,” said Paul. “His prep work is spot on and he is doing tradesmen-level work and has been for months. We have put on a lot of apprentices over the years and he is up there with the best. We were all rapt here when he won the Apprentice of the Month award – it really was well-deserved.”
Though he is already an Apprentice of the Month award winner, and clearly an outstanding talent, David, as well as his family, was still surprised to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year and found the news to be motivation to try even harder to make his mark in the industry.
“I was a bit shocked when I found out – everyone was actually” he said. “And I am quite excited and nervous, but also really proud.
“I love working where I am, it is a great place to be, but this will motivate me more and maybe look to get my own business at some point.”
LIAM SMITH was the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Month way back in August 2016. At the time, he had just begun the fourth year of his Motorcycle Mechanical Technology apprenticeship. Since then, the 21-year-old has completed his training and is now a fully-qualified tradesman working at Coastal Farm and Motorcycles in Innisfail.
A top-notch student, Liam finished his apprenticeship in June and has carried his enthusiasm and work ethic into his job where he is already being marked for bigger things as a future workshop foreman. And there will be plenty of work to keep him busy as the team at Coastal Farmand Motorcycles tackle a wide variety of work.
“We do a bit of everything here including rebuilds and services on road bikes and dirt bikes and we have taken on mowers too,” said Liam.
“We also do power equipment and I recently completed my Stihl Silver technician training.”
Having grown up with motorbikes and dirt bikes – he owns several and is also a keen endurance rider – it was Liam’s childhood ambition to become a motorcycle mechanic and he began working at Coastal Farm and Motorcycles soon after graduating high school.
His enthusiasm for the trade made him a stand-out student.
“Liam focused on what was required to comfortably progress with his training and assessments,” said Scott Buckley, Liam’s MTA Institute trainer. “He always had his work books done to a high standard and if anything needed clarification, he was very focused.
“He is held in high regard at his workplace and it is admirable that he keeps up to date with training by attending various manufacturer training course sessions.”
Told that he had been nominated for Apprentice of the Year, Liam said he was proud to be in the running for the award. However, be it Apprentice of the Month or the Year, accolades are unlikely to change his outlook on a trade about which he is so passionate.
“I’m pretty happy about it, it’s great to be nominated” he said. “The Apprentice of the Month award brightens up my day a bit every time I see it but I am as enthusiastic now as I was when I first started working here. I love what I do.”
Thomas Maloney is a second-year motorcycle mechanical technology apprentice with D&R Motorcycles in Roma. The Apprentice of the Month for October 2016, Thomas is proving to be a dedicated and gifted student.
Performing top-end engine rebuilds, suspension and final drive repairs in his first year, the 19-year-old was marked early as an apprentice to watch and that drive is still obvious as he has entered his second year.
“Thomas has continued to impress with his skill level and passionate approach to the trade,” said Zak Zuiderduin, his MTA Institute trainer.
“He has a very natural ability to understand the mechanics of motorcycles which is why he is so successful in the workshop. He also helps others to complete their tasks and his employers and supervisor have only good things to say about him. It is always a pleasure to do a training session with Thomas and observe his progress.”
Working with motorcycles was always on the cards for Thomas. Growing up on acreage meant there was plenty of room for him to ride and he got his first bike at the age of six.
“I thought about getting into the motorcycle industry for a long time because I was always around them,” he said. “I had a little Chinese bike that I was riding around on when I was younger and it was always breaking so I was constantly tinkering around with it.’
That experience led him to D&R Motorcycles. “I was still at school when I first came here to do a traineeship,” he said. “After that, I came in to the shop after school from Monday to Friday, and then came on full time. When one of the fellows here left the business, I came on as an apprentice.”
After nearly three years with D&R under his belt, and many more years than that ‘tinkering’ on his own bikes – including several he currently owns – Thomas said things were going well, he was really enjoying the job, and being nominated for the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year award was a real honour.
“It’s a lot of fun – there is always something different coming through the shop,” he said. ”And I’m very proud to be nominated. Knowing I am just one of eight nominees and that MTA Institute trains around 1500 students – that makes it good enough right there! It is great to think I am one of so few to be nominated.”