MTAI Apprentice turning heads following award recognition

21-year-old Gabrielle Clift has been making waves in the automotive industry in recent times as she closes in on completing her light vehicle apprenticeship.

Now in the third year of her apprenticeship at Highfields Mechanical – valued MTA Queensland members who actively represent the industry by participating on numerous state and national committees – Gabrielle was recently crowned MTA Institute apprentice of the month  for December 2019, recognising her dedication and commitment to her field.

This commitment to excellence has earned Gabrielle the applause of both her MTAI Trainer Colin Crawford and Highfields Mechanical business director Craig Baills, two people that have worked closely with Gabrielle over the course of her apprenticeship.

“Gabrielle is an excellent student who achieves very good results in exams and practical assessments. She is very dedicated to her training and workplace and is an excellent example to other apprentices and tradespeople,” said Colin upon learning Gabrielle had been awarded the apprentice of the month award.

Craig has similarly been impressed with Gabrielle’s dedication and commitment since arriving in Toowoomba.

“Gabby has gelled very well with the business and the team,” said Craig. “She fits in as one of the team and pulls her weight day in day out and as we have seen with the MTAQ awards, her work is being recognised outside of our business as well.”

Growing up in the major agriculture centre of Moree in Northern NSW surrounded by diesel and heavy machinery, Gabrielle’s interest in mechanical operations was founded at an early age.

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

Learning such skills as inflating tyres, fitting trailer tyres, servicing wheel bearings and servicing cars and trucks over the course of her childhood, a career in automotive was almost inevitable for Gabrielle.

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

However, 12 months into her apprenticeship, Gabrielle realised things weren’t really working out, so she turned to MTA Queensland members Highfields Mechanical and commenced a light vehicle apprenticeship.

“In my first year, I started a heavy diesel apprenticeship where I didn’t receive the mentoring and knowledge that is required in the beginning of my trade, which meant that when I moved to work for Craig, I was behind,” said Gabrielle. “However, within a few months thanks to the whole team I was getting back on track.

“It’s true that, originally, light vehicle was not my first pick but, honestly it has been the best change. I thoroughly enjoyed it. For me, there is just more variety and we do a bit of 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.”

Working in an industry where to this day women are under-represented, Gabrielle believes it is her personality and work ethic that shines through and makes her the strong worker she is, with gender being much less of an issue in her experience.

“I haven’t experienced many issues at all. I believe it is because people see my work ethic; I work hard, I give it my all. At the end of the day I am here to do a job the same as everyone else.

“I think the whole ‘women being in a male dominated industry’ argument is old school. We live in a day and age where it shouldn’t matter what gender we are and where we work. The only thing that should matter is that the job, whatever it may be, is done correctly and efficiently. The way I see it, the student is as good as their mentor.”

A strong advocate for young people entering the trade, Gabrielle believes anyone considering taking up a trade should follow their heart and do what makes them happy.

“I would encourage everyone – male and female – to start a trade if they want to, whether it is mechanical, building, hair dressing, hospitality or whatever – we need more young people considering taking up a trade.

“All that matters is that you do your job because you love it, and you want to strive to do your best. If a man wants to go into hair dressing or beauty therapy, it shouldn’t be questioned just the same as if a female wants to be a mechanic or boiler maker or get into cabinet making – just go for it. Let your personality drive you, not your gender.”

As for what’s next after completing her apprenticeship, Gabrielle is looking forward to continuing to learn and add to her collection of skills, hopefully with her current employer.

“I’d like to stay here at Highfields for a long time and gain experience in every field – rebuilding engines and gearboxes, auto electrical, air conditioning, everything.

“And I’d definitely look at auto-electrical training. Nowadays, 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 very important.”

Source: Aftermarket | Making her mark

21 April 2020