Father's love of motors inspires Hamilton teen

Zoe McLean left school without NCEA level 1, but after her dad passed away she decided she wanted to study his passion of mechanical engineering.
Zoe McLean left school without NCEA level 1, but after her dad passed away she decided she wanted to study his passion of mechanical engineering.

Hamilton girl Zoe McLean left school without qualifications after her father died unexpectedly, but she became determined to follow his passion of mechanical engineering.

Around two years later, the 18-year-old is one of the top students in her course at private training provider TrainMe and set to graduate with a mechanical engineering certificate in a few weeks' time.

''When I was little my dad sort of got me into playing around with cars and mechanical engineering stuff. So he sort of put me on the track,'' McLean said. ''He would teach me how to muck around with motors, fix wheels and stuff like that.''

When he died of a heart attack she ''went down a rough track''. She dropped out of school in year 11 without NCEA Level 1 and couldn't find a job, let alone one in the mechanical engineering field.

Then she found ATC TrainMe's Hamilton-based trade school, where more than 150 students each year study areas including agriculture, retail and security.

''Because they had a mechanical engineering course I was like 'Oh, sweet','' she said.

She is due to graduate in just over a month with a National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering Level 2, a first aid certificate and NCEA Level 1.

The level two certificate can be used as the first stage of an apprenticeship or a stepping stone to a pre-trade course.McLean enrolled at the start of the year - not sure how she'd go - and has surprised herself.

''I'm there every day looking forward to learning, where I didn't really like school. It changed my perspective of learning,'' she said.

''With school everyone has to learn the same thing at the same time, has to finish everything at everyone else's pace. At ATC [TrainMe] they teach you not only in the teacher's way but in a way that you can learn.''

TrainMe Trade School tutor Paki Tuna said Zoe was one of the top students in her intake. ''Her work is always of a high standard. She also has a great personality... She is a good role model for our other students; many who, like her, come in with no qualifications from school but have decided to prepare themselves for the future with TrainMe.''

She is also one of three girls in her mechanical engineering class of 18 and is determined to keep the males honest.

''If you put your mind to it, you can show the boys up when fixing a car, or other things, any day,'' she said.

That's also partly why she wants to become a mechanic or stainless steel welder - to show it's not just a man's job.

But first she's thinking about getting a diploma and degree through Wintec, although the prospect of a student loan is daunting.

TrainMe is a division of ATC New Zealand, which has been running foundation training programmes in Hamilton and Auckland since 1984.

The Hamilton-based provider offers some funded courses; for more information visit trainme.org.nz

Waikato Times