Kalib Lewis grew up working on cars, and his hands-on skills helped him quickly land an automotive apprenticeship. But he put the theory side of his training on the backburner for a few years – until he found out he had a baby on the way. Find out how the added motivation of fatherhood has led to huge changes in Kalib’s life, from getting qualified and becoming a foreman to buying a home for his whānau.
Growing up in Auckland with parents who did dirt track racing, Kalib knew his way around an engine from a young age.
“I’ve been working on cars since I was in nappies. I was always around speedway and dirt track racing and stuff like that. I was born into it, really.
“My parents knew basic stuff about cars, and they’d just get the job done and make it work. So, sometimes we had no idea what we were doing – we’d just pull it apart, see how it works and put it back together. ”
This practical background served Kalib well when he started officially training in the automotive trade. With a recommendation from his tutor at Manukau Institute of Technology, he quickly landed an apprenticeship (managed by industry training organisation MITO) with Davies Motors in Manukau.
However, the theory side of his apprenticeship was a challenge at first
“It was hard, especially because I was working 45-hour weeks at the time. So I’d go home and think, ‘I don’t really want to do this because I’ve been working on cars all day’. I’ve also got dyslexia, so reading and writing is not really my strong point.”
But after a slow start with his bookwork, Kalib found a powerful source of motivation to get qualified.
“I had a son on the way, so I was like, I need to get qualified. I need a pay rise and I need to get this done.”
“And that was the majority of my motivation in the end, was my son. Just to get my apprenticeship done and out of the way, because I wouldn’t have time later on – like, I’d have to juggle time with my son and being at work.”
Crossing the finish line
With his son turning two in September, Kalib (Ngāpuhi) has now been a qualified mechanic for around a year and is the workshop foreman at Auto Xcellence Ltd in Manukau.
“Getting qualified was a big relief. It was a huge weight off my shoulders. You never realise how much of a weight it puts on you until you actually get qualified.”
Kalib’s whānau are proud of his achievements, both in the trades and on a personal level.
“I’ve changed a lot over the past few years, and they’re stoked with where I’ve ended up. Believe it or not, I used to be a little devil child that used to go out and get in fights and stuff. My son’s sort of calmed me down and helped me realise there’s more to life than just myself.
“I’m a better person for it. Like, you live and you learn, and I know what to look out for now. And when my son came along I realised I wanted to be better for him. Even I’m surprised how much I’ve changed.”
With his qualification under his belt, Kalib’s higher income helped him and his partner to purchase their first home in Manukau.
“We’re in the final process of signing our house contract. We’re actually building on the back of my partner’s parents’ place. So that’s how we’re getting into the housing market.”
Saving the money for a house didn’t come naturally, but the 23-year-old set his sights on the goal and worked with his partner to do what was needed.
“I was one of those people that lived paycheck to paycheck. I just threw money around and didn’t really care. But with my son coming along, the priorities changed. It’s not all about me now.”
Knuckling down and saving money has allowed the couple to get set up for their future, says Kalib.
“We’ve achieved so much in the last year since I’ve been qualified, it’s ridiculous. But most of that comes down to, honestly, working long hours and saving money.”
“I took a year off racing and was like, ‘this is the goal we’re saving for’. Once we’re in our own place, I can start racing again.”
Having finished his apprenticeship, Kalib is now part of a small team at Auto Xcellence, where he’s learning how a business is run and how to work with customers.
“When my boss is away, I run the place. It’s sort of the next step. And then probably after that, the next step for me will be starting my own business. That’s a five-year goal.
“For me to own my own business one day, I have to see how a small business runs. It’s a big change from being in a corporation where you’re not dealing with customers regularly. My job now is more of a family environment. You get to know the customer on a more personal level rather than, oh, we’re just servicing your car.”
Part of Kalib’s role has been learning how to invoice customers, which often involves working within what the customer can afford.
“Being in a low socio-economic area, It’s been a big eye-opener. The customers can’t always afford for everything to be done. So, it’s being able to work with the customer as well.”
Success in the automotive trade takes dedication and patience, says Kalib.
“You have to enjoy what you’re doing and be dedicated to it. I’m big on enjoying what you’re doing, otherwise don’t do it at all. Don’t just half-arse it; you’ve got to be fully committed to what you’re doing.”
“It’s about learning how to be a mechanic, not a part fitter. Because anyone can be a part fitter, but to be a good mechanic takes some time and some problem solving.
“Often with diagnostic stuff, you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to follow the systems that are in place or follow whatever the service information says. And you have to be dedicated to be able to find the fault and not give up and put it in the too-hard basket.”
Now that he’s qualified and working as a foreman, Kalib is keen to focus on enjoying life with his whānau while he builds up experience in his trade.
“I just want to live life how it is. I used to be a person who took everything to heart, but I know now that life’s life and you can’t really control it, so you might as well enjoy it while you can.”
Want to work with cars like Kalib? Find out how to train in the automotive trade.