Automotive apprentice Joseph Kaufusi always knew he wanted to work with vehicles. “I like being on my feet, working with my hands, and getting dirty,” he says. The 24-year-old is gunning to get qualified through MITO – having already managed to smash out more than 90 credits by June this year, compared to the 75 credits expected for the entire year.
We caught up with Joseph to find out how he got into his trade, his goals for the future, and how his dad’s been a big inspiration in his career.
Firstly Joseph, tell us where you grew up?
I grew up in Tonga (Vava’u) until I was eight – that’s when my family moved here to New Zealand. We used to go back to Tonga once a year when I was little, when flights were cheaper and all that. But as I got older, I was going back once every two or three years.
We lived in St Lukes when we first moved to Auckland. Then we moved out to Mangere and that’s where we’ve been ever since. I’m still living at home, just trying to finish up this apprenticeship.
I’m from a small family, which is pretty weird for an islander. I’ve only got two siblings and they’re both younger than me. The youngest one’s actually over at Unitec with an MPTT scholarship, doing construction.
How did you get interested in working with vehicles?
I’ve been surrounded by people in the trades all my life. My dad’s a diesel mechanic. He did his main university training in Fiji, and then he came back to the mainland in Tonga and did the rest of his practical training there.
He started out with the old, hand-cranked diesel engines. By the time I was born, he was already 12 years into his trade. Dad still works on trucks and stuff, but that’s only in his off-time. Now he’s at the testing station doing warrants of fitness and certificates of fitness.
And has your dad helped you much with your training?
Yeah, I learned a lot of the basics from him. Given that I pretty much grew up around the industry I’m in, and I had some knowledge of diesel engines and cars in general, it was easier for me to progress through the learning.
I do talk about it with dad quite a lot, especially with my assignments. With bits I don’t understand, I just call up dad and we go through it.
It’s awesome when I’m doing my own projects, like working on cars at home and all that. If I get stuck I’ll ask dad, ‘What’s the best way of doing this?’ and he’ll come out and show me.
There’s some new stuff I’ve been able to show him, too, mainly on the electrical side with using the new scanning systems that have come out recently.
You were awarded an MPTT scholarship — how has that helped you?
It’s been a big help. I had money saved up for my course fees — that was all my savings from doing odd jobs here and there. When I got the MPTT scholarship, that made everything a whole lot easier. There was a load off, not having to think about how I’m going to be paying for all my courses and everything. So, I didn’t have to use up all my savings.
My MPTT navigators Pava and Tu were real helpful too. I went to them for advice on career paths and stuff like that, and they were able to provide me with all the info I needed.
How did you land your apprenticeship?
It was through MPTT as well. I was about a month out from finishing my course, and MPTT organised a recruiter to come to Unitec for a bunch of job interviews. Within a couple of days, I got a call from the recruiter offering me a job at Hirepool, which was where I started my apprenticeship in 2017.
I was at Hirepool for almost three years, and last year I moved to Universal Diesel. The main reason I moved was around getting the apprenticeship done. When I started training in heavy diesel, there wasn’t enough work for me to do at Hirepool. So, I had to make the call that was right for me and what I wanted to do in the future. I got on well with my boss at Hirepool, and when I said I needed to leave, he said ‘Go for it’.
How did you find your job at Universal Diesel?
I talked to my dad to see if we had family or any of his mates who were working in the industry. He asked them if the companies they were working for were looking for apprentices. And he came back with the position at Universal Diesel, because one of our relatives is the workshop foreman.
Working in heavy diesel was a deliberate choice for me. If you’re a diesel mechanic, you have a lot of options because you’ve done your training on anything from trucks, buses, all the heavy equipment, all the way down to cars and lawnmowers and stuff.
When will you be finishing your apprenticeship?
My parents are constantly saying, ‘Hurry up and finish!’ It’s been a lot longer than I should have done on my apprenticeship. Now I want to get it done as quickly as possible.
When I’m at home, I’ll knock out two or three assignments at a time. I just knuckle down. When motivation is lacking, I force myself to put my head in the book and keep going.
What do you get up to when you’re not at work?
Most weekends I’m still working ‘coz, in the hopes of owning my own business, I’m also doing it as a side hustle. Not only to keep gaining the experience and the knowledge, but also to build up that base for what I do in my own workshop.
I just do that from the garage at home. So at the moment, I’ve got one of my best mate’s utes parked up in my driveway, waiting for him to get a new clutch. It’s just helping friends and family out. Money’s a bit tight and getting it repaired in the workshop can be quite costly.
Other than that, I just usually chill with friends and family.
What are your goals for the future?
My end goal is running my own business, having my own workshop and being my own boss. Being free to do what I want to do.
I’ve given myself a five-year goal, which is to complete my apprenticeship in the first year and a half. Then once I’m all qualified, I want to pick up a night course at Unitec or MIT studying business. Once all of that is done, I can start making my move into having my own workshop. It’s most likely going to be in the hood somewhere, in South Auckland.
Find out more about learning Automotive with an MPTT scholarship.
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, MPTT can prepare and support you to make a success of it. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.