Danielle Anderson | Apprentice Technician

Danielle Anderson has always spent a lot of time around cars, hanging out with car enthusiasts, and helping her father when he worked on his cars, learning how to change a tyre, check a brake pad and her way around a car motor.

Her fascination with cars, and “the individuality of each vehicle” grew. She’s now completing her Certificate of Automotive Engineeringstudying part time while also doing an apprenticeship with John Andrew Ford.

She hopes, once qualified, to become a master technician, “where you know all about your brand, and are a little bit of a guru”, and/or a WOF technician. She loves her day job, where she’s learning how to change CV joints and ball joints, how to service a vehicle and, in the process, more about the intricacies and particular characteristics of different vehicles. 

Combining full time work with part time study has been ideal. “Some can do the full time course, but for people like me, who need financial support, being able to work, while studying is fantastic.”

She values the classroom experience Unitec offers. “It keeps me motivated. I did not like school at all — it was too much of stuff I didn’t want to learn. But doing the two classes a week has been great. It offers that reinforcement, which keeps me on track with the study.”

“And I can ask a question in person, and get to the root of what I’m trying to figure out. If I was doing this at home or online, I’d open up the book and think ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to be taking in!’ I’m not a strong reader, but if I’m talked through something, and shown how it works, I get the gist of it pretty well.”

Combining work with study is  “killing two birds with one stone” she says. “By the time I finish my Unitec courses, and get qualified, I’ll be out of my apprenticeship.”

John Andrew Ford Service department staff

While aspiring mechanics could learn on the job, she believes employers are increasingly looking for qualifications to back up employee experience. “Some guys in class are in their 30s, and have been [working as a mechanic] for a few years, but now want to get the paperwork, to get a pay rise, or to be able do more with it.”

The Unitec coursework and the apprenticeship complement each other. Much of the practical side of coursework can be done at work, signed off by supervisors at John Andrew Ford, which goes toward course credits.  “And what the theory I learn at Unitec, I can then put into practice. It’s nice when you learn something at uni, and then asked about it at work, and you know the answer. And vice versa.”

Danielle had been wary of studying automotive, as she knew she’d most likely be the only girl on her course, and she is. “ I had been wanting to do it, but kept putting it off, intimidated by the thought of it. But friends and family said, ‘just do it. You’re going to be a girl mechanic, so what? It’s going to make you happy!’ And it does.”