In December, MTA Queensland brought together its trainers from across the state to participate in the MTA Institute’s annual trainers’ conference.

The conference is the only time of the year that all MTA Institute trainers come together in person, and the two days of workshops and group discussions focus not only on the experiences of the past year but look forward to the next 12 months, the developments and advances in the automotive training sector, and the introduction of any new training systems.

“It’s always good to bring the training team together for the conference,” said Paul Kulpa, General Manager of the MTA Institute. “The agenda was pretty packed this year, with the main objectives to upskill our trainers by further developing their training and assessment techniques.

“We also introduced our ‘Organiser’, that works through the My Profiling online learning system, to help with our apprenticeship scheduling. This is a digital scheduling system that helps organise the trainers’ time with students and employers. It also sends a reminder to students and employers about when their next training session is scheduled, which is very useful.

“When we looked back and reviewed the past year, 2018 certainly provided some challenges, but was also packed with great achievements, including increasing our apprentice training numbers; increasing our presence on social media; the delivery of pre-vocational, trade recognition, and higher-level skills programs.

“We also saw an increase in trainer professional development; have been supporting the automotive mentoring program and the MTAQ Race Team, as well as providing overseas scholarship opportunities.

“It was a very challenging but successful year, and we’ll be working to see 2019 be just as successful.”


One of the highlights of the trainers’ conference is the announcement of the recipient of the Trainer of the Year award – an accolade that this year was presented to senior collision repair and refinishing trainer Scott Gehrke.

A 30-year veteran of the vehicle body repair and refinishing trade, Scott has spent the past 14 years as a trainer, the last seven of those with the MTA Institute, and Paul Kulpa said that Scott was a very worthy recipient of the award this year.

“Scott has come close to winning the trainer of the year award before, but this year he could not be denied,” he said. “He achieved this honour because of his hard work and leadership of the collision repair and refinishing team. He has always gone above and beyond, gets in and gets the job done, and the results he achieved for his students, employers and his team are outstanding.”
A highly skilled but modest tradesman, Scott said it was a great surprise to be named trainer of the year, especially as the other members of the MTA Institute team are such a hard-working bunch.

“I was surprised, and a little embarrassed,” said Scott. “I am involved in many meetings throughout the year where the trainers’ performance is discussed, and I am well aware that all of them work really hard and offer that little bit of extra service to the apprentices and businesses to whom they deliver training. They all deserve an award!”

A testament to this sense of teamwork and camaraderie was on show when Scott accepted the award from Mr Kulpa – he brought all his paint and panel training colleagues, as well as a handful of administration staff, up to receive the award with him.

“We have a great paint and panel team,” said Scott. “And I also invited the Institute’s administration staff, as well as our Operations Manager Marcello Riotto, to join me to accept the award. I appreciate the work they do behind the scenes for all of the trainers. Without them I would not be able to do my job successfully – they are an integral part of my apprentices’ success and of my working life.”

With the apprentices in his charge located in an area that covers from Brisbane in the south to Gladstone in the north and as far west as Biloela, Scott is always busy and always on the move. It’s a job that requires the support of colleagues, a love of automotive, and a passion for teaching.

“Seeing the young apprentices grow, watching the more mature apprentices achieve a life goal, seeing female apprentices prove the boys wrong, and watching all of them becoming tradespeople – that is very satisfying,” said Scott.

“I enjoy passing on my experience and knowledge, but a trainer’s job is not just about passing on knowledge,” he added. “We are mentors, confidants, sometimes a parental figure. While that part of the job can be difficult, I get a feeling of great achievement when my advice has helped a student avoid the speedbumps of life.

I hope I have been a positive influence in their life.”

While Scott aims to keep delivering superior training to his apprentices in 2019, like many in the trades, he recognises that the changes coming to the industry mean that even for someone like him, development of knowledge never ends.

“While the priority for 2019 is to continue to focus on my apprentices and their employers, I do aim to spend some professional development time concentrating on what is happening in the industry regarding the latest repair methods, electric and hybrid vehicles, and the latest paint colours and application techniques.

“I would also like to build the student numbers in the paint and panel area, and work with the mentors from the ISMAA program MTA Queensland offers to first and second-year apprentices. I have seen the benefits of this program and I know it has been helpful in increasing the retention rate of apprentices.”