Shontae Ellmers was never worried about being a female in a traditionally male industry. Inspired by her mechanic Grandad and her passion for metal work, it was an easy choice to pursue a career in the industry.  

The 18-year-old has found her calling, working as an apprentice automotive technician and completing a New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering (Level 3 and 4) through MITO.

Shontae’s first taste of the industry was through MITO’s StartUp® programme, where she began working one day a week at Autotech Waipukurau. StartUp® offers Year 11 to 13 students the opportunity to gain experience in an automotive workshop while earning NCEA credits. Students complete theory courses via eLearning, then spend one day a week in a workshop to complete their practical assessments. The programme gives students the opportunity to get a clear view of what the industry is all about, while learning practical skills and gaining valuable working experience along the way. 

StartUp® turned out to be the perfect step for Shontae. Not only did she realise she had a passion for the automotive industry, she also proved herself to Autotech Waipukurau owners, Garry and Karen Wilson. “She’s a very fast learner,” says Garry. “When you tell her how to do something she’ll do it, and if you ask her again, she’ll remember exactly what to do.”

In fact, Garry and Karen were so impressed with Shontae’s dedication to the job that they offered her part-time holiday work, which eventually developed into a full-time apprenticeship with the business.

“StartUp® really helped prepare me for my apprenticeship,” says Shontae. “Our work would involve both practical and theory elements, which got me comfortable with learning in that way. It helped set me up for the type of work I’m doing now that I am here full-time.”

Shontae was a recipient of a 2018 MITO KickStart Scholarship, which contributes $1000 towards the first year of study for any MITO apprenticeship programme at Level 4 or above. “I didn’t believe it at first,” laughs Shontae. “But I was so excited and really happy. It gave me reassurance that I’m on the right path.”

To top it off, as a first-time learner, Shontae was eligible for two years of fees free industry training through the government. Because of this, the scholarship is transferred to the third year of her training programme, meaning that three years of her fees will be paid for her.

While they are overjoyed with Shontae’s progress, her achievements come as no surprise to Garry and Karen. “We could see when she was doing StartUp® that she had a fantastic work ethic,” says Garry. He also credits StartUp® for setting her up for full-time work. “It prepared her really well for being in the workshop environment.”

Garry and Karen are so pleased with what Shontae has brought to their business that they’re already planning on training another apprentice through MITO once she completes her studies. “It’s healthy for the business, and it’s good for the community,” says Garry. “Our customers recognise it too – they love talking to the young apprentices and watching them progress through the trade.”

Now five months into her apprenticeship, Shontae couldn’t be happier with the job she’s landed. In a workplace that is 50 percent women, she has multiple female co-workers to learn from - something she really values. “My workmates are the best, I work with awesome people” she says, “and I love what I do.”

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