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Hamilton girl realises mechanical engineering dream

Hamilton girl realises mechanical engineering dream

When 18-year-old Hamilton girl Zoe McLean’s dad unexpectedly passed away two years ago it became her dream to make him proud by following in his footsteps as a mechanical engineer.

And despite having dropped out of school at the age of 16 without so much as NCEA level 1, Zoe soon discovered a way to turn her career vision into reality.

After enrolling at private training provider TrainMe at the beginning of this year, Zoe is expected to graduate mid-year with not only a National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering Level 2, but a First Aid Certificate and NCEA Level 1.

“My dad, who was a solo father to me and my brother, taught me all he could about mechanical engineering when I was little. So when he passed, I was inspired to get into the same field as him,” she said.

“But leaving school without NCEA Level 1 made it really hard for me to find a job anywhere, let alone in the mechanical engineering industry,” Zoe said.

“I looked for a job for about two years. Then one day my father in law gave me a piece of paper, which turned out to be an advertisement for the TrainMe Mechanical Engineering course. So I followed it up. And now I’m most of the way through the 6 month course and doing really well,” she said.

Zoe says her Dad was a really practical man and studying Mechanical Engineering through TrainMe has led her to hone the skills she inherited from him.

“My favourite thing about Mechanical Engineering is how practical it is. During my time at TrainMe I’ve got to use the arc, welders, guillotines, torque wrenches, drill presses and all sorts. We have just designed a brazier, which is a container for fire, and are in the process of building it,” she said.

“We also do literacy and numeracy, which at first I thought I would never be able to pass. But now, only a few months later, I already see heaps of improvement there,” she said.

TrainMe’s Mechanical Engineering course operates out of the private training provider’s 730sqm Hamilton-based Trade School. More than 150 students study at the purpose-built school each year, graduating with Level 2 National Certificates in courses spanning mechanical engineering, agriculture, horticulture, retail and security.

TrainMe Trade School tutor Paki Tuna said Zoe is one of the top students in this year’s first intake of the Mechanical Engineering course.

“Her work is always of a high standard. She also has a great personality and gets on well with all the other students and tutors. She is a good role models for our other students; many who, like her, come in with no qualifications from school but have decided to prepare themselves for the future with TrainMe.

“That’s our aim with all our students; to provide free courses that help them gain the skills they need to move into the workforce or further tertiary training at a diploma or degree level,” he said.

Zoe was one of three girls in this year’s TrainMe mechanical engineering class of 18 students. And, true to her resilient nature, Zoe says being in a male-dominated class never bothered her.

“Girls can be equal in skill to boys when it comes to trades. If you put your mind to it, you can show the boys up when fixing a car, or other things, any day. We can be much better at multi-tasking,” she said.

And Zoe remains focussed on her future ambitions.

“I’d really like to be either a mechanic or get into something like stainless steel welding.

When I complete this course I will have the option of going into further study or getting a job,” she said.

“My partner and my mother-in-law are really proud of me. And my Dad would be hitting the roof with excitement if he could see where I am now,” she said.

TrainMe is a division of ATC New Zealand, a registered Private Training Establishment with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. ATC has a successful history of running foundation training programmes in Hamilton and Auckland since 1984. The Hamilton-based education provider offers funded courses to adults (18+ years) and youth (16-19 years).

For more information or to find out about eligibility for funded TrainMe courses, visit


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