Wrenching Stereotypes

Apprentice mechanic Sophie is on a mission to encourage other young women to join the automotive industry. “I did the automotive course at school, and I was the only girl. I went the second year, and was the only girl again!”

Sophie completed both years of MITO - Te Pūkenga’s StartUp® programme: Ignition and Accelerate. StartUp offers Year 11 to 13 students the chance to earn micro-credentials in the automotive industry approved by NZQA and credits towards NCEA Levels 2 and 3. It has both theory eLearning and once a week practical learning in a workshop.

“I really want to influence more girls to get into it. I think it’s awesome, I love it. I’ve talked at a couple of career expos to college students, giving them advice. I found out more girls started joining the programme afterward which is great.”

As her schooling was coming to an end, Sophie’s MITO - Te Pūkenga Training Advisor Maureen let her know that there was a workshop around the corner that was hiring for an apprentice. “It’s a really powerful thing to go in by yourself and say you want to give it a go. I walked in there and talked to the Service Manager. There were three other boys wanting to take on the job, but soon after I got a call saying I got it. I was so excited they gave me a chance.”

Sophie’s been at Mitsubishi Motors Ashburton for two years now and is almost fully qualified through MITO - Te Pūkenga’s New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering (Level 3 and 4).

“I remember being scared when I started, thinking it was so different. I had never been in that kind of environment, but they were so nice. I’m stoked with my job. They got me involved and never excluded me. They’re getting me into more big jobs. The foreman puts me in charge if he’s on a call out as well. He gets me handing out job cards, watching over everyone or diagnosing the vehicles that come in.”

Sophie says that there is also a lot of opportunity for growth in her workplace. “I’m looking forward to learning more. They’re going to try and teach me the other departments. I want to be able to help everyone out and learn as much as I can.”

Her passion for cars transfers past the workshop as well, with project cars taking up some of her spare time. “I’ve been fixing up an old, red MX-5 and a Toyota Corolla, can’t go wrong with them!”

Sophie says the best part of her work is the satisfaction of a job well done. “It’s great when the customer is happy with the service you provide, and you did it well and it runs so much better. It’s a good feeling.”

Looking into the future, Sophie has plans to run her own workshop and continue her focus in inspiring young women to join the industry. “I’d love to one day start my own ‘Sophie’s Mechanical’ and open different branches and get more female mechanics in. It’s amazing how far you can go if you take the risk. You only live once. Give it a go, you won’t regret it.”

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