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A love of 'fixing stuff' sparks curiosity for Top Apprentice

Fitting and machining apprentice Perrie Thomas has been named the Apprentice Training New Zealand (ATNZ) Apprentice of the Year 2019 at an awards ceremony in Hamilton yesterday.

The prize celebrates an apprentice who demonstrates high performance in their work, a great attitude, is proactive on the job and enjoys what they do.

Reporoa-based Perrie, 20, is in the second year of his apprenticeship, and works in the Rotorua factory of Hayes International, specialists in the design and manufacture of rollforming machinery to produce roofing and wall cladding, and other metalworking equipment.

Factory Manager John Hornfeck is immensely proud of his apprentice, who he says is a quick learner who always takes the time to listen and learn from those around him.

“Perrie is a keen young man who is willing to try anything we do within the company. He puts his hand up. He’s awesome, everything he does is 110%. He’s just a marvellous young man,” John said.

This is the second year of the awards for ATNZ, a not-for-profit group training organisation that employs more than 360 engineering apprentices and places them with host companies around New Zealand.

General Manager Susanne Martin said the calibre of nominees for ATNZ Apprentice of the Year was extremely high, with the judging panel convening three times before they reached consensus on the winners. However, Perrie stood out.

“His was a fantastic application; it had a lot of spirit and a lot of passion in it. He is very enthusiastic about what he does but what really sang to us was the extra responsibility he has taken on so early in his career, and it’s a real credit to him. We look forward to seeing even bigger and brighter things from him in the future,” she said.

Humble and reserved by nature, Perrie wasn’t expecting to win the award but was obviously thrilled. “It feels pretty good to be recognised for what I’ve done so far. The award means I know I am doing well and can go even further in life if I keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Raised on a farm, Perrie has been helping to fix machinery, lawnmowers, motorbikes and more since he was a boy. This got him interested in learning how things work and are made and sees his apprenticeship as the perfect way to explore this curiosity while getting qualified and paid at the same time.

He also enjoys the satisfaction of seeing something he has created be used successfully. “I also love the accuracy and technical side of machining, the challenge of tight tolerances and trying to get things to the right size. I like knowing I’ve made something that works and seeing it in action is really cool.”

Outside of work, Perrie is a keen mountain biker and competes in endurance races around the North Island. He also enjoys working on old cars and is currently restoring a 1970 HT Holden Kingswood.

Runner up for ATNZ Apprentice of the Year was Lachlan Hamilton-Ralph, who currently works for Auckland engineering firm Obtuse. Company director Anita Hamilton heaped praise on the third-year apprentice.

“Lachlan takes responsibility to everything that he does and is not afraid to correct any work where he has made errors or that is not of good quality. He understands that this is all part of the learning process.

He is not afraid to have a go or ask questions. He learns so quickly and accurately we often only explain a task once before he nails it,” she added.

The judging panel made special mention of the quality of Lachlan’s application and the wonderful references he received from Obtuse’s customers and suppliers.

Both awards were presented at a breakfast for tradies at NZ Safety Blackwoods in Te Rapa, Hamilton.

Apprenticeship roles with ATNZ are always available. Visit to find out more.

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