Automotive apprentice, Toni Harris, always wanted to start a career in an automotive workshop. After working in the office at Auto Super Shoppe Pukekohe for several years, Toni plucked up the courage to ask to move from the office to the workshop after the Government’s Targeted Training Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) launched in 2020.

The TTAF makes a range of training and apprenticeship programmes free for learners. It is targeted at industries where demand for skills will remain stable or continue to grow during New Zealand’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Senior mechanic and owner of Auto Super Shoppe Pukekohe, Aaron Dutton, and automotive apprentice Toni Harris.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the workshop,” Toni says. “It’s always been my interest, but I just never asked. When the free fees came in, I just decided to go for it, and I was out in the workshop that week!”

Toni’s now on her way to completing a New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering (Level 3 and 4) through MITO.

Aaron Dutton, senior mechanic and owner of Auto Super Shoppe Pukekohe, has taken advantage of the Government’s Apprenticeship Boost which is a support payment to employers of apprentices in their first or second year of training. Employers can receive up to 20 months of support. “I think it’s been very beneficial,” Aaron says. “There’s always a cost when you take somebody on, and it does help to mitigate that.”

Aaron’s trained many apprentices in his long career as a mechanic and describes Toni’s work ethic as “faultless.”

“If she continues on the path she’s on, she’s got the potential to be the best apprentice I’ve ever trained,” he adds. “If she needs some assistance, she’ll ask. She’s also very logical in her thought process which I think is one of the most important attributes you can have as an apprentice.”

As a female in the industry, Toni has had nothing but positive experiences. “A lot of the time, our female customers love that there’s a female in the workshop and working here has been amazing. The guys that I work with are also my good friends, so they’ve been really supportive.”

Being a mother of four, Toni explains the importance of taking time for yourself and finding a work/life balance. “After the kids have gone to bed, that’s when I’m studying on the laptop,” she says. “Instead of TV, I’m watching the videos or doing the online assessments. You just have to make time for yourself. You have to do it.”

In addition to considering the programme, “really good and user-friendly,” Toni says that the support from her MITO Industry Training Advisor, Kerri, has been a great help along the way. “I can text her if I’m having an issue, and she replies really quickly. She pops in regularly to help go over things and she taught me how to use the online portal. To have that support there is really great.”

If you’re after some final words of inspiration from Toni, she summarises the love of her job and the anticipation to be fully qualified. “It couldn’t be going better, and the job satisfaction is really great. I’m happy with what I’m achieving and loving what I’m learning. It’s cool to have a job that I look forward to and I’m just excited for the day when I have that qualification and can say that I’m a mechanic!”

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