Juggling UCOL studies, secondary school classes, and work experience requires great commitment, but it has paid off for young automotive apprentice Ben Duck.
"I've always had an interest in cars. My dad and all of his mates were all into cars, and dad used to race out at the Manfeild club days. So, working as a mechanic was always something I had at the back of my mind," says Ben.
Ben completed UCOL's U-Skills Academy Automotive programme while he was in Year 12 at Freyberg High School. This one-day-a-week programme gives secondary school students a taste of automotive engineering while they work towards NCEA credits.
The following year, Ben enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering Level 3 as part of the U-Skills 3+2 programme. Normally 3+2 students spend three days a week UCOL | Te Pūkenga and two at school, but Ben arranged to spend one of his school days doing work experience at a local car dealership.
Learners who complete the New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering Level 3 at UCOL benefit by having completed the first year of their apprenticeship and reducing the time to become fully qualified.
Ben did a stint of work experience at Manawatū Toyota, before moving onto McVerry Crawford Motor Group. He says he got the best of both worlds by developing his skills in the workshops at UCOL and McVerry Crawford.
"The UCOL programmes were helpful for learning the tools and working on a range of vehicles. There are things I do at work now that I learnt from UCOL, like changing tyres. It really surprised some of the guys at work that I already knew how to do that."
"Doing work experience while studying helps because you get to know the people in the workshop, how they work, and how they like things done. Workshops have time schedules they need to stick to, and that kind of thing can be overwhelming if you come into a job without any work experience."
As Ben was coming to the end of his UCOL studies, McVerry Crawford offered him an apprenticeship. Ben was delighted, as landing an apprenticeship had been a big motivator for doing work experience.
"I'm really enjoying my apprenticeship, especially now that I've been there for a while and I've got into the flow of things. I'm now doing some of the bigger jobs, which is nice because it takes me out of my comfort zone. I'm getting into the engine bay, taking apart components, and putting them back together."
For Ben, the best thing about his job is that he is always learning something new and applying it.
"It's quite cool to be able to spot and diagnose problems yourself. It's a great feeling when you can say, 'I know what the problem is, and I know how to fix it'."