Forging Career Paths Together

Twelve years ago, David Dulihanty and Dion Thompson of Manukau Toyota Group looked around the automotive industry and found an issue that still persists today. “There is a marked shortage of experienced people,” Dion says. Both managers knew the answer was to grow the people themselves. They made a significant increase in their employment of apprentices to do so and today the Group is proud to have more than 30% of their technicians completing apprenticeships with MITO – Te Pūkenga.

Group Service Manager, David Dulihanty, currently has 22 apprentices spread across the four Manukau Toyota Group stores at Botany, Manukau, Papakura, and Pukekohe. All are at various stages in their training for the New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering (Level 3 and 4). Papakura Toyota Service Manager Dion Thompson, who has five apprentices under his wing, has been with MITO from the beginning.

(from left to right) Dion and David


“I’ve been right through the MITO experience,” Dion says as he reflects on his journey. He began his apprenticeship with MITO in 1997, during the emergence of on-the-job training where learning is achieved on the floor, through correspondence learning, and with visits from training advisors. Being both a learner and now a supervisor for MITO apprentices, he has seen many changes over the years. The level of support provided by the training advisors has come a long way Dion says. “I can see the effort that MITO put in and the likes of Alan Clarke who have put in the effort to help train these technicians and support them.”

Dion finds his apprentices are learning things that are more relevant and up to date as the curriculum evolves along with the changing motor industry. “They enjoy the online side of it as it gives them the freedom to be able to work on it at home and after hours. Then you’ve got the off job training that MITO provides as well, which they really enjoy and get a lot out of.” Off-job training provides the opportunity to get hands on experience with certain jobs that haven’t come into the workshop. In 2021, Dion was able to continue to upskill with MITO programmes, by completing the New Zealand Diploma in Business. “The career path with MITO has set me up for where I am now.”

Manukau Toyota Group also provides clear career paths. David explains how the Group will offer young people interested in the automotive trade to join as a groomer first. This allows them to get a taste of the industry, the employer can see how well they work too, and they can move into an apprenticeship role when one becomes available. David strongly believes in providing an environment where staff feel comfortable to learn and not pressured.

(from left to right) Dion and Justeen

This support results in longer lasting employment. “The retention is really good, and you do build that partnership,” David enthuses. He enjoys seeing someone develop from a shy interviewee to confident and qualified. “It’s one of the most satisfying things you can get to do as a manager”. Bringing on new people to train has been supported by Group CEO Darren Smart too. He has given David the flexibility and support needed to provide these opportunities for apprentices. When Dion first joined the Group, he could visually see career paths. “That’s what sort of gives other employees the stability and wanting to stay on board with the group and leads to success in the company”.

After working as Group Service Manager for approximately 15 years, David still believes “apprentices are where the lifeblood is in the future of the automotive industry” and that training apprentices will continue to be a huge part of the Manukau Toyota Group culture. Dion agrees that on-the-job training is going to be very important going forward and together they will continue to enrol MITO – Te Pūkenga apprentices to help develop the next generation of technicians.



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