Taking an unconventional road to the workshop 

by Petrol Mum

The mechanics of tomorrow might love cars, but they’re also being attracted to the industry for other reasons. As skillsets change, gender balances improve and EV’s become more and more prominent, the mechanics of ‘yesterday’ are giving rise to the apprentices of the future.

Take Kat Nilsson, for example, a somewhat rarity in an industry bursting with mechanics who often learnt ‘backyard mechanics’ from friends and relatives, long before their official training in the classroom began.

Kat used to be a dancer for a good 10 years, and competed as a dancer representing Australia until she broke her knee dancing, twice. When Kat finished Year 10, she started at TAFE doing Beauty Therapy. Then COVID hit and Kat dropped out due to the classes going online, which she really did not enjoy nor deal well with. Kat realised that wasn’t really what she wanted to do with her life.

The 20-year-old apprentice, who is now in her third year of studying a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology with MTA NSW, admits that while she’s always loved cars, she didn’t know anything about them when she first entered the automotive industry. What Kat did know was that she “didn’t want to sit at a desk all day” and says she “wanted to work with her hands”.

“The main thing that got me into mechanics was my former partner who was into motorbikes and cars, he wanted to be a mechanic himself. He unfortunately passed away in a car accident so I decided I wanted to try to do it for him. After being rejected by a few workshops I almost gave up, but my current partner supported me and gave me the confidence to not give up!” Kat told Driven Women Magazine.

But Kat’s initial lack of knowledge on the subject of mechanics didn’t stop her from finding a passion and a place within the industry, where Kat has since become a valuable member of her team.

“The teachers were all very understanding… Before I started in this industry, I didn’t even know how to change a tyre! Whereas most of the other guys came from automotive families.

I’ve never done well in class or behind a screen and as much of the mechanical work is mainly muscle memory, I have no doubts in myself. I enjoy the fast paced, physical nature of the role, and always learning on the job,” Kat said.

Kat credits her success to her understanding and supportive trainers at MTA NSW, who helped her develop her skills and knowledge of working on cars, while navigating career challenges. When I asked Kat what her career highlights were so far, she said,

“The people, the amazing trainers I’ve had through MTA NSW. All the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. What I’ve learnt not only mechanics-wise but also about life in general.”

Today, Kat says her heart lies with her grandfather’s 1983 Datson, which she inherited. With her newfound knowledge of automotive, she hopes to one day restore the car to its former glory and even take it to Australia’s ever popular Summernats car festival.

“My message to the girls out there: don’t ever let anyone discourage you. You will always find people who think you can’t do it, or that you’re too pretty, or too clean or not strong enough to do the job. But if you really want something, anything at all, if you put in the work and never give up you can and will do it!” shared Kat.

There is a national skills shortage within the automotive sector, which faces a shortfall of 38,000 skilled professionals and a limited number of technicians who are qualified to service and repair EVs. With the expected growth in the number of EVs, it is estimated that Australia will require an additional 14,000 qualified EV technicians by 2030.

Fortunately, MTA NSW has experienced a 10% increase in enrolled apprentice and trainee numbers between the end of 2021 and the end of last year, due in part to the general increases that the industry has seen with the wages incentive, as well as the continual growth trend over the previous five years.

MTA NSW offers a Battery and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Inspection and Servicing course to provide mechanics with the professional skills required to safely depower and repower hybrid and electric vehicles. The course covers the fundamental requirements for inspecting and servicing battery electric vehicle (BEV) and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) systems and components in the automotive retail, service and repair industry.

There are two courses, the first is Module 1: Electric Vehicle Safety Training and the second is Module 2: Battery and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Inspection and Servicing. Contact MTA NSW for more information.

Photographs supplied.

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