With the annual challenge to find New Zealand’s best electrical apprentice back for 2023, the winners of the 2022 challenge have some sage advice for those considering entering, and for the employers of the young sparkies about to be put to the test.
Exposure to all the varied elements of the industry that the competition provides is invaluable, says Mathew Masters, who won the Industrial Award in last year’s Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge, sponsored in part by Schneider Electric.
“Taking part in the challenge is a rewarding way to upskill. The team at Dalton Electrical supported me with my learning going into it, and I was given opportunities many apprentices wouldn’t get to touch.
“There’s a lot I didn’t know about the expanse of the industry when I came into it; I just wanted to do something hands-on after university, and now I’ve found what I’m good at.
“I come from a programming background and the challenge was a catalyst for me to learn my way up. People want homes that run off their phones, but automation is becoming applicable in so many contexts now – including industrial – and I’ve been able to see the technical side of it, which opens up a whole new space in the electrical industry for me to explore.”
Mathew’s advice for young people is “not to be afraid of the trades,” a sentiment shared by Palmerston North-based Thomas Mitchell, who recently completed his apprenticeship with Hedley Electrical and was the Domestic/Commercial Award winner in the 2022 Challenge.
“I left school with an Excellence in NCEA but wasn’t overly excited about any of the careers that seemed to stem from university education. I came up against a bit of stigma about the trades being held in less esteem as a viable professional path, but going straight into an apprenticeship has been the best thing for me.
“The field is so broad that the work covers everything from automating people’s homes to programming robots in a factory. As we move towards a more sustainable world with more complex technological advancements the industry is going to adapt and grow, and I think the work electricians do will become even more central to the way we live.”
Schneider Electric is passionate about front-footing the future of home energy management and proud of its ongoing sponsorship of the Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge, which the company views as an investment in upskilling and supporting the industry.
The module it’s sponsoring this year will have a completely new design that ensures apprentices are exposed to the world of home automation amid growing uptake of digital solutions for the domestic sphere and living spaces.
Mathew Lawrence, General Manager of Operations at Master Electricians, says, “Master Electricians is grateful to Schneider for being a sponsor of the Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge and contributing to a module that provides an opportunity for electrical apprentices to test their skills against one another.
“It gives them exposure to the latest cutting-edge technology in home automation, and the module provides a great simulation and demonstration of how Smart Home automation is constantly evolving, which requires apprentices to constantly learn and adapt to the latest innovations.”
The importance of sponsorship shines through in the Challenge – making it accessible to all young sparkies – and the support of employers and host organisations also leaves a lasting impact.
Mathew Masters felt generously supported by his team in the lead up to his participation, and he says this was crucial in bringing that extra edge to the competition. “Dalton Electrical has had an apprentice win the Master Electricians Apprentice of the Year Challenge several times before, which is a real source of pride for me and the team.
“All the entrants were given a guideline so we knew what would be expected of us, and Dalton helped me apply myself to areas of our field that I’m less proficient in and introduced me work I was unfamiliar with.”
Dennis Tan, also an apprentice hosted by Dalton Electrical, came away from the Challenge with the Initiative award. This is based on how finalists conduct themselves in a competition setting and the initiative they show towards health and safety. Dennis is excited about how solar will shape the future of the industry, and says the breadth of the challenge could see some of 2023’s participants discover an area of the field they have an affinity for that they weren’t exposed to before.
Thomas Mitchell agrees employer support is key, noting how he was championed by the Electrical Training Company (Etco) and the team at Hedley Electrical, with his boss driving to collect him from a Hamilton job so he could compete in the Palmerston North regional challenge.
“I’ve learned a lot about my ability to problem solve and I’ll definitely move forward from this with more confidence. The Apprentice Challenge was a really inclusive environment, with competitors offering encouragement and advice to one another, and I had a colleague come up to Auckland to support me in the finals. It was a rewarding experience and was free to enter! Why wouldn’t you?”
The competitions are held across 13 locations in New Zealand, with preliminary regional rounds starting in June and the finals taking place in Auckland in late August. There will be spot prizes as well as prizes for the top competitors from each preliminary event. The top five national competitors from each division (Domestic/Commercial and Industrial) will go to the finals for an all-expenses-paid trip to battle it out for the title of Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge winner.
For more information about the Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge visit meapprenticechallenge.co.nz.