Working at Gisborne’s Allan Kellett Panel & Paint, 35-year-old Cole Robertson was always keen to get qualified as a collision repair technician but lacked the confidence to begin an apprenticeship. After encouragement from both his employer and his MITO Industry Training Advisor, Cole applied for a 2020 MITO Kick Start scholarship, and was successful. Now completing a New Zealand Certificate in Collision Repair (Non-structural Repair) through MITO, Cole is stoked with his achievement.

The scholarship, which pays for the first year of Cole’s training programme, came as a complete surprise to him. “I was speechless, which is unlike me!” he laughs. “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been awarded something – it honestly felt like I’d won Lotto.”

Having struggled with dyslexia his whole life, when Cole first began his training programme, he was apprehensive about completing the required theory. “I can’t put a pen to paper, but if you show me how to do something, I can go away and do it straight away,” he explains. With a natural talent for the practical side of his apprenticeship, it was obvious that with the right support, Cole would be able to excel.

MITO apprentice Cole Robertson with Allan Kellett Panel & Paint Owner Greg Boeyen.

Cole’s MITO Industry Training Advisor, Joe, helped him by installing text-to-speech software on Cole’s laptop, and taught him how to use it. “The software makes doing the eLearning theory so much easier,” says Cole. “I was struggling at first, but now I can get through things in half the time – I’d recommend it to anyone.”

“Joe has bent over backwards for me and has helped with so much,” Cole says. “Without him I don’t think I’d even be doing the programme, so I really appreciate his support – he’s a top bloke!”

Cole is also grateful for the support he has at home. “My partner Holly really pushed me to apply for the scholarship,” he says. “She’s a source of on-going support while I complete my programme, and I couldn’t do it without her.”

Allan Kellett Panel & Paint Owner Greg Boeyen describes Cole as a model employee. “He’s motivated, always helping others, and a fast learner – when you tell him something once, he takes it on and does it.”  

As a business owner, Greg sees the value in taking on new talent. “Obviously, there’s a lack of panel beaters at the moment, so if we can’t find them, we like to train one up. We love to train up locals and get more Kiwis involved in the trade.”

For Cole, the team at Allan Kellett make his job that much better. “Working here is awesome – I couldn’t fault it,” he says. “Everyone here watches each other’s backs and we all help each other out which is really nice, you don’t get many places like that. There’s some guys who have been working here for over 40 years, which I think says a lot about the business.”

Now well on his way to becoming qualified, Cole is loving the journey. “Every time I submit something for marking and they tell me I’ve passed, it puts an instant smile on my face,” he says. “It motivates me to get stuck into the next task, as it’s always a great sense of achievement.”

For those scared to take the plunge? “Don’t be shy, just give it a go,” says Cole. “All throughout school, I doubted myself. It got to the point where I doubted myself so much, that I gave up even trying. Now that I’ve received a MITO scholarship, and with this extra support, I’m not doubting myself anymore.”

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