From Top Gun to Top Gear

Engelbert Barlongo is currently working at Aksal Motors Limited in Newlands and is completing MITO’s New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering. Despite only starting his automotive qualification at 40 years old, this isn’t his first time being around heavy machinery and mechanics. Engelbert started his career as an aircraft mechanic, working there for 18 years. “I have been interested in the automotive industry since I was young. My uncle worked as a diesel mechanic, so I was looking at also working in automotive, but then I saw the movie Top Gun and was inspired, so wanted to get into airplane mechanics instead.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Engelbert was made redundant by his previous employer, so he thought this would be the right time to get into an industry he has always wanted to try. “My friend told me that his employer, Aksal Motors, was looking for people. I have basic mechanical knowledge, so I tried my luck. The manager was happy with my performance and liked my attitude and I was hired.” After working for a few months Engelbert was able to start his apprenticeship.

Engelbert’s transition into automotive from aircraft mechanics was relatively smooth. “Going from working with aircraft to cars is quite different but the job is similar. I like challenging myself, so I enjoy taking the opportunity to excel in another trade.”

Engelbert’s manager, and owner of Aksal Motors Irdan Harkan, is really impressed with his progress. “He is one of the best employees so far because he is very reliable – starting early and sometimes leaving late if required. He has a high quality of workmanship and takes time to complete the job making sure everything is correct, with the right parts for the job.”

With only a few more months till Engelbert completes his apprenticeship he reflects on what he has enjoyed the most. “I have enjoyed the journey, learning about cars, the systems and knowing how they work. It’s been awesome to see all the aspects work together.” He has also enjoyed the MITO eLearning side, “It’s my first time seeing this kind of learning so I find it very interesting that you can see the animations online. I like that. You have an idea of what you are doing once you touch the machine.”

As for Engelbert’s next steps in his automotive career, he wants to continue learning and upskilling. “Richard (Engelbert’s MITO training advisor) has mentioned the electric vehicle qualification so I would be interested in completing that. I am also interested in other areas of the industry like panel beating and painting.”

While speaking with Engelbert you can tell he is passionate about the industry and his workplace. It seems only fitting that when asking for his advice for other apprentices that the focus is on being a great employee. “You need to be a responsible employee so that your manager will support you in everything. If you want your employer to support you with your qualifications you should prove to them that you are capable and interested in continually learning all that’s required for this ever-changing industry.”

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