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Top engineering apprentices named in Wellington

Top engineering apprentices named in Wellington

Engineering apprentice William Stewart developed a passion for fixing things from an early age, inspired by holidays up north with his grandfather and his grandad’s “clever engineer mate”. That early interest has led to him being named Wellington ATNZ Apprentice of the Year.

The Miramar resident also won the award for top year two apprentice sponsored by Competenz.

William, who works as a maintenance and diagnostics apprentice with Acme Engineering, demonstrated a work ethic and ability beyond his years to scoop the top apprentice award for the region.

The awards are made among young people employed by ATNZ (Apprentice Training New Zealand), a not for profit organisation and New Zealand’s largest employer of engineering apprentices. The company annually recognises the top apprentices from each of the four years, choosing one overall winner from each region. An overall New Zealand Apprentice of the Year is chosen in December.

William’s interest in engineering started as a youngster when he spent time staying up north near Warkworth with his grandfather.

“Grandad was the harbour master around Kawau and Sandspit and a friend of his was a local engineer working on a barge. I spent lots of time with his friend doing mooring investigations and different odds and ends. I was always really interested in the stuff he was doing – he had such great general knowledge and was really on to it with fixing things,” says William.

It’s that Kiwi ingenuity and ability for problem solving and fixing things that has rubbed off on William.

“I like problem solving and working things out – I guess just being smart.”

William, 20, is employed by ATNZ and seconded to general engineering company Acme Engineering. He’s now 18 months into his apprenticeship and enjoying the diverse challenges.

“I’m doing a range of machining and fabrication work, and some turning as well. It’s pretty generalised which means I get a wide range of experience.

“I just love everything I’m doing. I’m learning every day,” says William.

William’s manager and a director of Acme Engineering, Gary Wong Too, says he always looks for the positive attitude factor when looking at prospective apprentices.

“That special factor immediately came through with William and this is all important in helping us select the right apprentice. From his background and what he’d been exposed to working up north, he was focused on the future and knew what he wanted to achieve.

“We’re always looking at candidates who have passion for where they want to go. William definitely has that passion. He’s mature beyond his years and my tradesmen are often saying they’ve only shown William something once, and he’s got it,” says Gary.

Of the 1400 people currently undertaking modern apprenticeships, in excess of 800 are part of the ATNZ organisation and are seconded to companies where they work gaining their engineering qualifications.

The EPMU year one award went to Phil Smith, a maintenance and diagnostics apprentice who works for Access Automation. The Hayleymedia year three award went to Hayden Harrison who also works at Access Automation as a maintenance and diagnostics apprentice, while the top year four Blackwoods Paykel award went to Nigel Barnes who works with Acme Engineering, also as a maintenance and diagnostics apprentice.

Phil Smith, Tawa

After trying his hand at a number of jobs including time as a car wrecker, EPMU Year One Apprentice of the Year, Phil Smith, says he’s found his place in engineering.

Phil, 24, is seconded to Access Automation, a leading manufacturer of cable cars and hillside lifts in the New Zealand and Asia Pacific region. Just eight months into his first year of his apprenticeship, Phil has already travelled internationally and throughout New Zealand with his work.

“About a month ago I was in Indonesia for two and a half weeks installing a cable car. I’ve also been in Auckland and Kerikeri doing installations,” says Phil.

“This is definitely the best company I’ve worked for – it’s a great team and I love what I’m doing.”

Hayden Harrison, Lower Hutt

Winning the Hayleymedia Year Three Apprentice of the Year caps off a big year for Hayden Harrison, who is also seconded to cable car manufacturer Access Automation.

Last month Hayden was selected from apprentices around the country to take up a five-month adventure as an apprentice engineer at Antarctica’s Scott Base.

Hayden will join a team of scientists and engineers at Scott Base providing essential maintenance services to the plant and machinery, while helping support New Zealand’s research efforts including science and weather experiments.

Hayden is grateful to Access for the opportunities he’s enjoyed in his time as an apprentice.

“I’ve been all over New Zealand, including several trips to Kawau Island. I’ve also been to Indonesia three times working on some installations, the last one was on a cliff face in Bali for a five star resort.”

As a keen snowboarder, Hayden has combined his engineering ability with his passion for snowboarding to design and build a special snow scooter which survived its first season last year.

“I saw a picture of one in an overseas magazine and built it from that. Now it looks like I might be able to take that to Antarctica too.”

With the year three award now joining his line up of achievements, Hayden is turning his efforts to his final weeks at Access Automation. He leaves for three weeks’ training in Christchurch on September 13 before flying out directly to Scott Base from Christchurch on October 4, returning in February next year.

Nigel Barnes, Wainuiomata
The deserving winner of the Blackwoods Paykel Year Four Apprentice of the Year Award is also no stranger to success after last year taking out the year three award.
Nigel completed the first year of a mechanical engineering diploma before deciding to take up an apprenticeship with Acme, one of the largest general engineering companies in New Zealand with both design and construction capability encompassing all classes of machine shop work, heavy steel fabrication and section rolling.
Nigel’s father is a respected engineer in the industry and this played a major role in his career choice.

“I’ve always seen dad in action and been interested. I love getting stuck in and playing around – there’s always something to learn.”

Nigel started off his career with Acme doing machining and general engineering work, but his growing seniority and experience now sees him doing a lot more off site projects, like pipework.

At 23, Nigel is in the final stages of his apprenticeship with just some final paperwork to complete.

Selection criteria for the awards include quality and quantity of work, public relations abilities, team involvement, reliability, punctuality and attendance, initiative, safety and standard of evidence.

ATNZ Manager, John Dolan, says ATNZ exists to help employers and apprentices get into and achieve benefits from training.

“These are the cream of our young people and they will go on to make a valuable contribution to their companies and to our economy. It’s vital that New Zealand has these people to develop and build our important infrastructure projects. It’s important that we recognise and applaud their achievements because for too long apprentices have not been valued highly enough.”

John says he looks forward to the successful young people taking trade training on to higher levels of specialist skills and management.

He also praises the seconding companies who employed the apprentices.

ATNZ runs apprentice of the year awards in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and Christchurch. William Stewart is now in the running to become the overall winner for the whole of New Zealand, chosen at the end of the year.


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