Encouraging Diversity in the Trades

From the age of 8, Kerrie knew the automotive industry was the career for her. 41 years after starting her apprenticeship at Fitzroy Automotive, she’s now Managing Director and a Women in Automotive Ambassador. We caught up with Kerrie about her career so far and why it’s so important to encourage women to get into a trade.

What do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

I work at the Polytechnic currently as the Deputy Director of the Trades School at WITT - Te Pūkenga. However, I still work at the workshop when I can to keep current and to ensure I keep my WOF certificate. When there, my day to day involves dealing with the clients, carrying out WOFS, repairs and maintenance on vehicles and interaction with staff. You can learn a great deal from the team collectively when you have tricky issues. My passion has been classic English automobiles and we still have several Jaguars and MGs that I look after when required.

Kerrie and workshop assistant Pip

What do you love about your job?

I am a very practical person and from a young age I enjoyed making things and pulling engines and other things apart. The satisfaction of a vehicle coming in with an issue and being able to diagnose and rectify the problem is something I really enjoy. Whether that’s brakes that aren’t working or an engine that needs tuning - it is all about the customer service and getting it right.

What qualities would you say are important in an apprentice?

A great attitude with a willingness to learn and be shown how to do things correctly is very important. I always say I can teach the skills required if the passion and right attitude is there. These days, the trade requires a great deal more diagnostic work to be carried out so having or acquiring skills in technology is also important. Be on time, be professional - we only get one shot at making a first impression. And enjoy your job!

Why would you recommend doing a trade to those leaving school?

This trade has been very good to me. The catch phrase, ‘earn while you learn,’ is so true. I was able to work and save some money whilst learning. My qualification has taken me from being an apprentice mechanic to working on Rolls-Royce’s in Australia. I own my own business and have moved into the training sector where from a tutor, I am now one of the Deputy Directors of the Trades school at WITT - Te Pūkenga. Completing a trade opens so many doors for our graduates as we are seriously lacking qualified people and the workforce is aging. Complete a trade and the world is your oyster!

Are you seeing more women in the industry nowadays?

When I started my apprenticeship in 1982, I was the only female in my year and the second female to start an apprenticeship in Taranaki. We now see a great deal more females in workshops, at our block courses and signing up for our Level 3 Automotive programme. It’s also not only in automotive - but we are also seeing more and more women across the trades.

As a Women in Automotive Ambassador, how important do you think it is to encourage young women to get into the industry?

I am a firm believer in being passionate about whatever your chosen career may be. I encourage not just those moving into the workforce but those who influence our youth and those looking for a change to support diversity. Women in male dominated trades add a balance. They often look at things differently and if we combine the positives we all bring to the table, things can only get and be better. I believe women in trades is the way of our future and I’m excited by it.

Follow your dreams, give it your best shot, and know that you may have an amazing journey, because I know I have.

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