18-year-old Josh Cooper spends his days working as an apprentice automotive technician at Automotive Solutions Limited, Invercargill. In his spare time, he works on his own cars – he’s currently in the middle of an engine rebuild – and races competitively around Teretonga Park. To put it simply – Josh is car-mad.

Listening to Josh talk about the rest of his family members, it’s easy to see where his passion stems from. “My Dad was into cars, and my Grandad too,” he says. “I did a lot of buying and selling of cars for a while, and my Grandad would always help me out with that. He taught me heaps.” 

Growing up surrounded by cars and mechanics, a career in the industry was an obvious choice for Josh, who says he never really considered anything else. “I’ve always tinkered around with cars at home, and loved it,” he says. “In high school I knew that I wanted to get into the industry as soon as I left – I was set on it.”

Josh’s natural ability was evident as soon as he began his studies – he was named top student in the light vehicle engineering course and top overall in automotive during his pre-trade course.

Now completing the New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering (Level 3 and 4), through MITO, Josh is loving getting stuck into his training programme. “The eLearning is awesome,” he says. “It’s quick and easy to use, and really nice to learn on.”

In the workshop, it’s the problem-solving parts of his job that Josh enjoys the most. “Diagnostics is definitely my favourite,” he says. “It’s really satisfying – the process of finding a fault, diagnosing it, and then fixing it.”

With Josh’s passion for the industry evident, it’s not surprising that he was the recipient of a 2019 MITO Kick Start scholarship, which pays the first year fees for any MITO apprenticeship or traineeship programme at Level 4 or above. “The scholarship takes the financial pressure off both myself and my employer, so I was stoked when I found out I’d been selected as a recipient,” says Josh.

Automotive Solutions Limited owner Blair Cooper describes Josh’s scholarship success as “fantastic” and “well deserved.” “He’s a really good employee,” he says. “He’s tidy, well spoken, and very methodical with the process of working through his jobs. We’re really happy for him.”

As a business owner, Blair really sees the value in taking on apprentices, and how important it is to grow your own. “I’m a strong believer in the fact that if we don’t keep bringing young talent into the trade, we’re going to stay in the same position that the country’s in now – with a real lack of qualified staff. Industry can’t grow if we don’t take these young guys on.”

Josh’s advice for young people wanting to get into the automotive industry? “You’ve got to get into it and give it a go,” he says. “Ask around at your local workshops if you can do some work experience after school. It’s the best way to see if you like it.”

For Josh, there’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll be in this industry for life – whether that’s on the tools or managing his own workshop. “I love it,” he says, “I never imagined doing anything else.”

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