Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology is pairing up with employers to ensure the next generation of mechanical engineers are ready to plug the skills gap in the sector.
The institute launched the New Zealand Certificate in Mechanical Engineering and 17-year-old Joel Edmonds and 26-year-old Asher Lane are the first two apprentices to take on the new course at Toi Ohomai.
Joel says he had just left school when he secured the apprenticeship at Bay of Plenty Gear Cutters, owned by Bill Ross.
“My teacher told me that he knew someone who was looking for an apprentice and he gave me Bill’s number, so I gave him a call and it went from there.”
However, Joel had to take a few months off after injuring himself while riding a motorbike not long after starting at Bay of Plenty Gear Cutters.
He says he’s grateful to have such an understanding boss in Bill and is determined to repay that trust by becoming a skilled tradesman.
“It’s been great working for Bill and the team is great. We’ve only just signed up with Toi Ohomai, but I’m really excited about what I am going to be learning.”
Asher says he was working next door to Bay of Plenty Gear Cutters as a pneumatic technician and bumped into Bill, who was looking for an apprentice after Joel injured himself.
He says he had always liked welding and was stoked when Bill offered him an apprenticeship.
“It was a hobby before and then I wanted to do it as a job and create a career out of it for myself. I hope to eventually become a qualified tradesman and have all of the skills that come with that.”
Bill says like many of the trades areas, there is a shortage of skilled workers in the mechanical engineering industry, which is set to worsen, as many of the qualified tradesmen head into retirement.
He says it’s up to employers to ensure the sector has skills it needs by training up the next generation and he’s optimistic the new partnership with Toi Ohomai will ensure his new recruits are highly skilled by the time they gain their trade.
“The reason I have taken on these guys with Toi Ohomai is because I know they’ll get the right training and skills. We train them in the hands-on stuff and the guys at the polytech make sure they have all the theoretical knowledge they need.”
The four-year course involves Toi Ohomai partnering with employers to provide apprentices with all of the components they need to get their trade.
Apprentices work, and earn a wage, while specialising in either the fitting and machining or the general engineering strand.
They can attend classes that suit their schedule – including at night time, during day release hours or block courses – and Toi Ohomai teaching staff sign off their credits as they achieve them, as well as offer them extra support.
Toi Ohomai group manager Mark Hendry says the role of Toi Ohomai is to support the apprentices and employer.
“We visit the apprentices monthly and monitor their progress and we give them a hand if they need it. They can come and do their classes at a time that suits them. If they’re doing ok, they can study in the workplace or if they need extra support they can come to campus.”
Mark says the new course has been a long time in the making but he is delighted to be at a point where he can sign up students.
“We started planning this about three years ago. Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology use our system and they have quite a few students.”
He says he hopes the systems will be used by other institutes, like the automotive consortium. Toi Ohomai is looking for more employers to partner with and anyone wanting to do the mechanical engineering course will need to be employed as an apprentice.