With a grandfather already in the trade it was always Kealia Hope’s dream to be a mechanic. Thanks to a school-based apprenticeship and support from her employer Coopers Auto Service she’s well on her way, despite still being a year 11 student at Glen Innes High School.
Kealia is one of 22 school-based trainees and apprentices currently under the wing of the school’s careers adviser Nicole Schaffer, and Mrs Schaffer is hoping to bring many more into the fold with an information evening at the Glen Innes and Distrcit Servcies Club from 6-8pm next Wednesday, July 19.
Kealia is a great advertisement for the undertaking, having first dipped her toe in the oil (so to speak) with work experience at Coopers in year 10. When offered a school-based apprenticeship early this year she jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s exactly what I want to do,” she said.
She’s now one semester into her first year apprenticeship course, which she will complete over two years as she also studies subjects for her HSC.
The young apprecntice currently works at Coopers one day a week during the school term and throughout the holidays. She also does a three-day stint at TAFE in Armidale every three weeks. She expects to transition into fulltime employment at the automechanics once she finishes school.
Kealia isn’t finding the workload too onerous at this stage.
“There’s no dramas yet,” she said, but knows she can go to Mrs Schaffer or one of her tutors at school if she starts to struggle.
While there’s no gender bias in the work opportunities offered to the students, Kealia said she does face some challenges as a young woman working in a traditionally male role. She said some customers request she doesn’t work on their car, but she bites her tongue and gets on with other work, considering it their loss.
On the positive side, she said she’s a lot more clean and tidy in her work than some of her colleagues.
Within the workshop she said she receives lots of support, although there’s no escaping the ribbing reserved for all apprentices. She said from some of the stories the other mechanics have shared she feels she may have experienced a harder time in other workshops.
“The guys are really good,” she said.
Kealia feels the school-based training program has given her a great start in life, and she’s a big fan of having a trade.
“Trades are the best way to go,” she reckons. “They help you get a job.”
She aims to eventually have her own shop and has a long-term plan to go into diesel mechanics which she said it where the big bucks are, but wants to gain knowledge of how the industry works along the way.
But for now she is servicing a lot of vehicles and accumulating a lot of experience.
“The guys give me a shot at everything,” she said.
Jake Lewis is one of the mechanics at Coopers supervising Kealia, and said she’s just a typical 16-year-old apprentice.
“She’s doing really well," he said.