Caleb Orotaunga learns something new every day as an ATNZ mechanical engineering apprentice at Kraft Heinz in Christchurch. The factory processes frozen, dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetable products and Caleb works on the machines that make it happen. He does a wide range of work, including machine maintenance, fitting, fabrication and overhauling machinery.
“At Kraft Heinz we process peas, carrots and beans, and sometimes potatoes. On a day-to-day basis, the main work I do is on the machines that process the three different types of crops. I go around every machine and grease them to prevent them breaking down. I also overhaul motors, take shafts out, check bearings and sometimes I make up guards and chutes for machines.
“I can also be asked to work on buildings and carry out work I have never done before. Because this is a food factory, keeping your tools and work area tidy is a must and it’s one of the jobs that the apprentice will do on a Friday afternoon in the workshop.”
Caleb says it’s important for new apprentices to listen and learn, and take in all the skills and knowledge from the more experienced staff. “When I started guys would say ‘get the gearbox ready’ and I was, like, what’s a gearbox? You can’t just go into a company and think you can learn to do things yourself and that you don’t need anyone to teach you. It’s important to learn from experienced people and to soak up as much as you can, because by the time they leave you on your own, you need to know what you’re doing.”
An engineering apprenticeship wasn’t Caleb’s first choice – he moved to Christchurch from Gisborne to study engineering at Canterbury University. But he found student life financially tough, and left after the first year. After a stint of temporary roles in demolition, frames and trusses and steel reinforcing, he applied for an apprenticeship.
“I really want to get somewhere in life, to get a house and a dog,” says Caleb. “Having an apprenticeship has taken me from nowhere to getting a trade qualification. It’s setting me up for life. And I enjoy working with my hands and not being stuck in an office.”
Once a month Caleb meets with his ATNZ account manager to check on his progress and set goals for the next month. “He checks on my bookwork and keeps me on the right track. He asks if I need any PPE and if anything’s broken, like my boots or my face shield, he’ll replace it for me.”
More than a year into his apprenticeship, Caleb’s confidence had grown. “I’m used to the factory. I know where everything is so I can get jobs done. I’m more independent now because of what I’ve learned. The bosses like it too, they can send me on a job and I get it done.”