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‘It’s Never Too Late To Learn A New Skill,’ Says Mechanic Mum

Training for a new career while raising children has its challenges, but apprentice mechanic Danielle Couchman encourages other parents to follow their dreams.

Danielle Couchman is now doing her apprenticeship at JP Motors in Masterton

Danielle has always been interested in cars – her dad was a drag racing driver and she got into the car scene as a teenager. She wanted to become a mechanic not just for a career, but so she could fix her own car instead of always relying on other people.

After taking a few years away from work to spend more time with her daughter and enjoy milestones like school camps with her, Danielle enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) at UCOL Wairarapa.

“I hadn’t been at school in a while, so getting back into that kind of environment was a little hard, but it didn’t take long to settle in. I felt a bit shy at first, because I was the only girl in our class and I was one of the older students, but our lecturers always made the class feel welcoming,” says Danielle,

Danielle says it’s hard to make time for everything when you’re studying and raising a child, but she would do it all again.

“I’d tell other parents who want to study to just go for it. There is childcare out there and there are people out there who are willing to help. It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It’s never too late to learn a new skill.”

On top of her studies, Danielle took on a work experience role at JP Motors, where she is now doing her apprenticeship.

“I had been looking for work experience - I asked at JP Motors and they said I could start the very next week. It really helped that it’s such a friendly work environment and everyone was happy to answer my questions. I’m so thankful that I’m here.”

Studying the Level 3 Certificate at UCOL meant that that Danielle was able to jump straight into Level 4 when she started her apprenticeship. Her time at UCOL also helped her develop good study habits.

“When I was at UCOL, I made sure I got all of my theory work done during the day because my life is so busy. Now I usually study on my lunch break rather than having to do it at home. That way I have more time to spend with my daughter and do everything else.”

In the short term, Danielle is focused on finishing her apprenticeship. Beyond that she wants to get into the growing field of electric vehicles, and maybe one day open her own shop and help other women get into the trade.

Semester two starts this week at UCOL Wairarapa, but a number of programmes have intakes beginning in August, September, and October. Learners can see them all at

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