Pre-vocational training: a student’s perspective

The MTA Institute’s five-week Automotive Vocational Preparation course delivers a basic introduction to the automotive industry, enabling students to learn from experienced trainers in a workshop setting about the fundamentals of the mechanical trade and discover if a career in automotive is something they want to pursue.
20-year-old Reuben Nash took the opportunity to complete the course and told Motor Trader about the experience.


First of all, I’ll be upfront and honest and say that working in the automotive industry was not something to which I had ever given much thought.

When I was at school, like lots of kids, I was into computers, computer games, gadgets and gizmos like iPods and so on, and my interest in cars was limited to the ones I could choose in the racing games I played such as Forza and Gran Turismo. In fact, I enjoyed these and other types of games so much that I ended up studying computer games design. Being a mechanic just wasn’t on my radar.

However, over the past two or three years, I’ve become more and more interested by what is happening in the automotive world. Learning to drive and buying my first car certainly helped in that respect, and I knew I wanted to be able to do the basic maintenance stuff on the Ford Falcon I had bought. But there was also the fact that my dad, who is editor of this magazine, talked (and still talks!) endlessly about the automotive industry and where it is heading.

I have heard him talk a lot about ADAS systems, about hybrid and electric cars and self-driving vehicles; about the moves from nations across the world to shift from fossil fuels; how hydrogen might work as energy for heavy vehicle transport . . . there’s an awful lot happening and I could see that the automotive industry was, and is, evolving quickly. I was really interested in what was going on.

However, being interested does not mean I was ready to approach a dealership or independent workshop for a job. I didn’t want to be offered that chance and then struggle, disappoint my new employer, and discover that actually, automotive might not be for me. That wouldn’t be fair on anyone. I knew I needed to get a feel for things first.

And so, when I found out about the MTA Institute Automotive Pre-Vocational Course, I jumped at the chance. This was the opportunity to learn some basic skills, get a taste of life in a workshop and discover what is expected of you when you work in one, and find out if the industry might be the place where I could build a career.

There were about a dozen of us on the course, mostly young and drawn from across Brisbane and the south-east, and most, I think, were like me – keen to learn and get on that first step of the career ladder.

It was a bit awkward at first – some of the class knew each other, while some, like me, knew no one – but we were all there because we wanted to be, not because we had to be, so it really didn’t take too long for us to click together.

Our first week was spent mainly in the classroom, learning about safety and environmental procedures, communication skills, and the basics on tools and equipment – all important lessons before we could start the hands-on training in the workshop.

From there, though, the fun stuff began and across the following four weeks we learned a great deal.

We removed wheel assemblies, used tyre-changing equipment, and were taught how weights are used for tyre balancing. We inspected and tested batteries, learned about wiring looms and how to identify the different elements of electrical systems, and then did the same with engines and were shown how to properly remove and tag engine components.

We were hands-on as we studied braking and exhaust systems and learned how to use workshop equipment such as hoists and, in the final few days of the course, we put what we had learned into practice and performed minor services – oil changes and filter replacements and so on – on a variety of vehicles put into our care by brave members of MTA Queensland and MTA Institute staff.

All of this was done, of course, under the watchful eyes of our experienced trainers Scott Gehrke and Russell Sticklen. These two extremely patient men were, over the course of the five weeks, joined by a number of other trainers who gave us insights into the industry and guidance across a range of topics, and throughout the course they assessed our growing knowledge and encouraged us to get stuck in, to ask questions, and to be curious. They are great teachers.

At the end of the five weeks, everyone in our group was assessed favourably. We all passed the course and are, I am fairly confident in saying, knowledgeable enough to be able to walk into a workshop and not make our new boss regret having given us a chance.

For me, the Pre-Voc course reinforced what I already suspected – that the automotive industry is a place I would like to work. I really enjoyed the experience. Learning how things work, and using my hands to pull things apart, understand them, and put them back together, is pretty cool. And with the industry in the midst of massive and really exciting change, I want to be part of that.

Source: Motor Trader e-Magazine (September 2021) 

20 September 2021