When WelTec introduced a new way of training its Level 4 mechanic students by offering night classes to underpin their on-the-job learning with theory and hands-on practical, the number of students enrolled quadrupled over two years.
WelTec made these changes to better respond to industry requirements in 2017 when New Zealand Certificates replaced National Certificates to meet changing student and workplace needs.
The change meant WelTec’s managed apprenticeship mechanic students could learn and earn at work uninterrupted through the week while complementing this with evening classes at WelTec over a three year period to get their Level 4 qualification.
“It is about continuing to bridge the gap between the world of study and the world of work,” says Phill Mudgway, Programme Manager for Automotive Engineering at WelTec. “But, it does require a big commitment from students who have to perform at a full-time job where they are also still learning the ropes, and attend a night class once a week over three years to get their quals. We seem to have hit the nail on the head though, as the response from employers, and our students, is that we have the right mix.”
“It is hard work having a full-time job, studying in the evenings and helping out with my big family, I have five brothers and two sisters and often help with my nieces and nephews,” says first-year Automotive Engineering (Level 4) Managed Apprenticeship student, Deborah Nunns. “But I really love the work and WelTec is supportive, that it makes it easier.”
Deborah considered studying medicine when she left Wellington Girls College in 2017, but couldn’t face years of study and a hefty student loan before getting into the workforce.
“I was really interested in getting a qualification that would get me into a job quickly. I wanted to start earning and didn’t want to build up piles of student debt.”
“I had always been interested in cars because I spent a lot of time with my Dad, who was a mechanic and tinkered from our home in Karori, so studying engines and welding and stuff like that at WelTec was perfect for me,” says Deborah, who is employed at Capital City Motors.
Tony McDonald, Wellington Service Manager at Capital City Motors where Deborah is employed says: “The benefit of employing students who are on a managed apprenticeship is that they already have some knowledge, and you don’t have to train them from scratch. Sometimes staff start with us and already have bad habits, but a managed apprentice learns to do things the way you like to have them done. WelTec tutors know what they are doing, and we have always had good experiences with students from there.”
Michael Jordan, a young mechanic student alongside Deborah, comes from Upper Hutt, and when he finished in 2015 at St Patrick’s College in Silverstream, worked as an assistant for a plumber for three years. But Michael wasn’t able to progress without taking on a traditional apprenticeship and getting his qualifications.
“Knowing I would have limits without a qualification really made me take a step back and look at what my options might be. Doing my first year of study ‘fees-free’ helped with the decision. Plus, the fact that I could continue earning while getting the quals meant I needed to step up,” says Michael.
“It doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy what you are doing, and who you are doing it with! I’m not bothered that it is another two years of study, I love my on-the-job work – it is so satisfying to have something brought in broken, and be able to send it back fixed, and I learn so much in the evening classes,” says Michael.
Shane Grantham, a peer of Michael’s at St Patrick’s College in Upper Hutt, initially enrolled at Victoria University to study business, but soon realised the course was not for him and he made the tough choice to change direction and he joined Michael at WelTec.
“I didn’t want to not have a qualification,” he says. “So when I was looking at what to do next, that was a requirement. I had always been interested in working with cars, so halfway through last year started working on my Level 3 in Automotive Engineering at WelTec.”
“These days all employees require qualifications – even on a workshop floor, and there are not enough in New Zealand so often we employ people from overseas,” says Greg Maraku, head mechanic at the AA Auto Centre in Lower Hutt who employs Shane.
“WelTec is a good institution and has moved with the times it has gone away from teaching old fashioned mechanics that no-one uses anymore,” says Greg. “So I am happy to employ young people from there and help them through their quals.”
“Lots of people underestimate the work involved in an apprenticeship,” says WelTec automotive tutor Stuart Henderson. “The students are required to study one year full-time to gain Level 3, and then have to come back for three years part-time study, while fully employed, to gain Level 4.”
The WelTec programme also provides a very supportive environment, many of the students complete the Level 3 programme together and continue to the next stage, so they can rely on one another and make lasting friendships with other students and WelTec staff.
WelTec Programme Manager, Ritchie Howard, explains that the focus in offering a Level 4 Managed Apprenticeship Programme is in “structuring a supportive pathway, endorsed by industry, that gives students the opportunity to continue their learning journey, in a familiar environment, whilst obtaining invaluable experience within the trade.”
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