Apprentice’s Career Takes Shape With National Award

For 23-year-old Industrial Textile Fabrication Technician Ryan Stewart, a love of American football, coupled with a natural talent in his chosen career, has seen him awarded the 2017 Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) Apprentice of the Year (Tier 1).

I think it’s great being an on-the-job learner. I don’t have a student loan like a lot of my friends who have gone to university do. I’m learning and getting paid to do it!

Entrants for the award - open to both OFPANZ members and non-members who were apprentices in MITO‘s Motor Trimming or Canvas Fabrication training programmes for less than 15 months - were required to make a messenger bag to prescribed specifications, with the flexibility to select the fabrics used and add any further design details they wished.

Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart with his award-winning messenger bag design

Ryan’s messenger bag featured a New England Patriots logo, the American football team he supports. The judges complimented Ryan on the intricate design of the logo, the choice of fabrics and colours, as well as his attention to detail and overall excellent workmanship in the near flawless fabrication of the satchel. 

Peter O'Connell, workshop supervisor for Douglas Auto and Marine Upholstery, Hastings, says, “This award is a great reflection of the skill and attitude that Ryan brings to his work every day. His motivation and willingness to learn, along with his keen intellect and problem-solving ability, means he is an absolute joy to teach. In all honesty, he is one of the best apprentices I’ve ever had – and I’ve been training apprentices for 40 years!”“When making the bag, I wanted a cool, unique design that would stand out,” says Ryan. “So, I chose the Patriots logo, stitched it onto the vinyl and effectively embossed it onto the bag. I also used a different coloured thread to that of the bag, so I had to be really neat and precise with my stitching – which I think added another element of difficulty. I had never done piping round the edges before either, so I learned some valuable new skills in the process!”

After leaving school, Ryan had a brief stint as a lifeguard before finding a job in retail. However, he became increasingly frustrated by the monotony of his work. “I was just doing the same thing day-in and day-out and wasn’t getting much satisfaction from the job,” says Ryan. “One of my good friends was already working here and thought it would be something I would enjoy doing too. So, on his recommendation, I applied for the job and was lucky enough to get it. I quickly found that having such a variety in my work was something I really loved. I also felt that having a trade would be extremely useful going forward and was excited to start an apprenticeship.”

18 months later and Ryan is well on his way to getting qualified with MITO’s National Certificate in Canvas Fabrication (Level 3). “I think it’s great being an on-the-job learner. I don’t have a student loan like a lot of my friends who have gone to university do. And they can’t find jobs when they graduate – but I’ve already got one. I’m learning and getting paid to do it!”

Listing his Apprentice of the Year award as his greatest career achievement to date, Ryan isn’t resting on his laurels. Once he has completed his apprenticeship he intends on enrolling in MITO’s National Certificate in Motor Trimming (Level 4). “I really want to complete both qualifications so that I have the skills and knowledge to cover all aspects of the work we do here and help the business progress.”

It looks like a remarkable career is certainly taking shape.

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