“Mondays don’t feel like Mondays”

23-year-old Mali works as an Automotive Refinisher at Panmech in Auckland, but didn’t always know that he would end up doing what he does. “I dropped out of school when I was 15. Once I turned 16, I started working at a warehouse, but I didn’t really enjoy it.”

A friend from the warehouse, who was leaving his job, introduced Mali to the world of automotive grooming. The prospect of working in a workshop interested Mali, prompting him to leave his warehouse job and explore a new path. “I thought why not take a risk and see how I like it. Once I started as a groomer, I fell in love with all the cars and how everything works. Going from accident-damaged cars to the finished job was really satisfying for me.”

After a while, Mali secured an automotive refinishing apprenticeship with the help of a scholarship from the Collision Repair Association in 2021. “I enrolled in the MITO programme and eventually, I became qualified. I really enjoy what I do. It doesn’t even feel like work to me. Mondays don’t feel like Mondays!”

In 2023, Mali completed his New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Refinishing (Level 3 and 4) through MITO.

“The programme was really good. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get into the trade. I got a lot of help because of my scholarship and also from my MITO Training Advisor Bradley. He was a great mentor for me, anytime I needed any help.”

With an art background, the act of mixing colours and transforming damaged cars to their former glory felt like second nature to Mali. “Painting is very satisfying. With my youth group, I used to paint murals in Henderson. I love colour so it's really cool mixing the colour at work and seeing it all come together. It's really relaxing. It sets your mind free. You don't really think of anything else when you're doing art.”

As a refinisher, Mali works on multiple cars a day. “There are four painters at my work. Each person gets a turn to paint so when I’m not painting, I’m prepping for the paint, so sanding, masking. And then when I’m mixing colour, the boys mask it for me and get it ready for me to paint.”

Mali’s career plans don’t stop here. “I want to take my trade overseas and get experience in Japan because I love Japanese cars. I’d love to see the difference in how they do automotive refinishing over there and bring those skills back to New Zealand.”

As Mali looks to the future, his aspirations also extend beyond personal success. His dream is to inspire other Polynesians to consider careers in the trades. He believes that with dedication and effort, anyone can turn a humble beginning into a successful and fulfilling career, just as he did.

Mali hopes to break the stereotype that limited options await those who drop out of school. He emphasizes the importance of finding opportunities in unexpected places and encourages young individuals to explore the vast landscape of trade careers.

“I want to open my own shop and hire kids in the same situation that I was in and get them into apprenticeships. Eventually, when you put in all the effort, it’ll pay off. Then you'll become qualified, and that qualification can take you really far.”

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