After arriving back in New Zealand from two years bar tending in the United Kingdom, Cameron Fairless wasn’t sure what his next move should be. “After I finished high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went to the UK. Next thing I knew, I was back in New Zealand, still unsure of what I wanted to do. I felt like I was just treading water, not really getting anywhere.”

Keen to begin a career and learn skills that would be with him for life, Cameron put his name forward for a job at Hart’s Body Shop, Palmerston North, and successfully scored a position as an inwards parts handler and groomer. After just over a year with Harts, Cameron was taken on as a full-time apprentice, and began completing a New Zealand Certificate in Collision Repair (Non-Structural Repair) (Level 3 and 4) through MITO.

27-year-old Cameron wasted no time getting stuck into his training programme – he knew he had a lot to learn. “I had always had an interest in cars, but there’s no way I’d describe myself as a gearhead or anything like that,” laughs Cameron. “I went into the industry with absolutely no automotive knowledge and very little practical experience.”

Luckily, Cameron loves to learn, and cites the constant learning as one of his favourite parts of his job. “Every day is a new challenge,” he says. “Every job has different components, so there’s always something new to take in.”

Every job has different components, so there’s always something new to take in

Soon after beginning his apprenticeship, Cameron was selected for the IAG Trades Scholarship programme. The programme, supported by MITO, aims to boost talent and strengthen the skill base of key industries by supporting a number of new apprentices through their apprenticeship.

This year, the effort Cameron puts into his work was recognised when he was named the 2019 IAG Apprentice of the Year in Collision Repair.

“When they announced that I had won I was in disbelief,” says Cameron. “I was just really proud of myself. I’ve played sports so I’ve won sports awards before, but I’ve never won anything career related, so it meant a lot.” Cameron walked away with not only the title, but with a brand-new industrial vacuum and sander, courtesy of Wyatt Machine Tools – something that will definitely come in handy throughout his apprenticeship and career.

IAG Motor Assessing Performance Manager John O’Rourke notes that Cameron’s commitment to the trade, along with the effort he puts into his work really stood out to the judges. “Cameron began working in the collision repair industry with no prior experience and has shown a fantastic work ethic and eagerness to learn during his apprenticeship so far, making him a fitting recipient of this award.”

Hart’s Body Shop owner Stephen Perrin cites Cameron’s admirable work ethic as the reason for his success. “He had absolutely no industry experience when he began with us, but he gets around every challenge that comes his way.” From a business perspective, the award is also a win for Hart’s. “It’s great when one of your own apprentices wins an award like that,” says Stephen. “It reassures us that we’re doing something right as a business – we’re training our staff the right way.”

If Cameron could go back ten years and give himself some advice, he’d tell himself to not discount a trade as a viable career option. “When I was in high school, we were all pushed towards university,” Cameron explains. “So now we’ve got a bunch of people with degrees, and not enough tradespeople. I spent years being so unsure of what I wanted to do, when I could have used that time to try out a few different options. I’m definitely not old, but I do wish I’d begun an apprenticeship earlier in my life.”

Keen to learn as much as possible and get qualified as soon as he can, Cameron is putting his all into his apprenticeship. “Being named Apprentice of the Year really energised me and made me want to do my best – I want to show everyone that I was the right person to receive this award.”

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