Mike O’Callaghan had a passion for engineering from a very young age. “I could always be found tinkering in our workshop at home with my Dad. Once I began high school, I wanted to learn more so engineering was a core subject in my curriculum for the next five years.”
After school, Mike chose to undertake a light fabrication apprenticeship at Etech NZ in Palmerston North.
“An apprenticeship is probably the best way to learn for practical people. It focuses on on-the-job training while providing a comprehensive theoretical background to what you will learn at work. It’s set out so it’s easy to achieve and you are well supported. Plus you don’t have a student loan to pay back at the end of it, so it gives you a leg up over your university peers in the first five or so years after leaving school.”
He encourages future apprentices to give it everything. “Don’t be fooled, you’ll only get out what you put in. The harder you work and the better your attitude is, the easier you’ll find the training and the more rewarding it’ll be.”
In the first three years of his apprenticeship Mike was given the opportunity to learn new skills such as polishing, pipe running, patterning and drawing. He also learnt to TIG, MIG and stick weld.
After completing his light fabrication apprenticeship, Mike wanted to continue learning and growing his skills, so he took on the Level 5 fabrication qualification.
“In my advanced trade certificate I am able to refine all the skills I learnt during my apprenticeship as well as learn about managing people, quoting jobs and leading teams on site jobs. My current role splits my time between workshop work, building silos, ducting hoppers or pipework and site work where I lead a team of guys to complete some very complicated projects.”
And Now? Mike says he loves everything about his job.
“It’s not always glamorous but engineering makes the world go round. Sometimes it’s the worst jobs that are the most satisfying. It’s always worth jumping at these roles as they will inherently give you the most satisfaction once they are complete.
“What people see is the finished product, shiny and new, but understanding the work that goes into something gives you a greater appreciation. People tend to think of engineering as someone who welds all day every day, but there’s so much more to it, from CAD to sketching, quotes and pricing to fabrication and installation or products.
Mike says the best thing about engineering is its diversity.
“Different companies produce different products in different ways, always allowing the industry to grow and change. Technology is now playing a huge role in this with more CNC machinery and robots entering the fold.”