Phoenix Auapa’Au always knew he would end up working with his hands in some way. With a father who was a mechanic, and a fascination with how things work, the automotive industry was an obvious career choice. Now 22-year-old Phoenix couldn’t be happier with the job he’s in, working at Trucks & Trailers, Auckland, while completing a National Certificate in Motor Industry (Automotive Heavy Engineering) with strand in Road Transport (Levels 3 and 4), through MITO.

After leaving school and working various odd jobs, Phoenix had a brain wave to turn his passion for engines into a career. He set about visiting heavy automotive businesses with his CV. The first business that Phoenix approached was impressed by his initiative, and offered him work experience on the spot. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

Now working at Trucks & Trailers, Phoenix is loving what he does. “This is really a problem solving job” he says. “You don’t just learn about trucks specifically – you learn how things move and operate, how a gear works; you realise that one thing makes something else work, and that diagnosing the problem is just as important as fixing it.”

Looking back on his final few years at high school, Phoenix wishes that someone had talked to him about the opportunities in the trades. “I was being pushed to go to university” he says. “I wish someone had told me that getting qualified in a trade is just as good, if not better. My friend got into a trade straight from Year 12, got qualified, and now owns his own business.”

Determined to let others know how a trade qualification could kick-start their career, Phoenix has now taken it upon himself to inspire those who are unsure of what they want to do. “I’m in the process of mentoring one of my friends who is in Year 12 at the moment,” he says. “I’ve talked to the Service Manager here and now we are looking at bringing him in for some work experience!”

Trucks & Trailers Service Manager Kelly Henshaw shares Phoenix’s enthusiasm for getting young people into the trade. “This industry is very short on good quality technicians,” he says. “We can’t be afraid to take on a young person. If we give people the opportunity, they’ll be in our industry for a long time to come.”

Kelly can’t praise Phoenix enough as an apprentice, commending his hardworking attitude, and in particular, his enthusiasm. “When I’m hiring apprentices, the main quality I’m looking for is enthusiasm towards the industry. As far as skill goes, we’re here to help them learn those skills – as long as they’ve got the desire to learn, we can help with the rest.”

Phoenix’s passion for the industry is obvious in the way that he talks about what he does. “The best feeling is when you’re in the workshop, in the zone, in control of your truck, the music is on, nothing is distracting you, and you’ve got a job to do. It’s awesome.”

From being unsure about what he wanted to do with his life, to knowing exactly where he’s headed, Phoenix is ready for the future. “After getting qualified I want to progress to Foreman, and then eventually to Service Manager – I’m motivated to be at the top.”

Similar Success Stories


For Ethan, completing StartUp® gave him the push he needed to decide to pursue a career in the automotive industry. Ethan made such a big impression that his Gateway teacher nominated him for the Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award, which he was awarded in October 2023.

Read more ›