Three and a half years ago, 22-year-old Tom Elers started as an apprentice canvas fabrication technician at Charmans Motor Trimming in Hastings. Tom admits that when he first started at the business, he wasn’t entirely sure what canvas fabrication and motor trimming actually involved. “But after three months, realised this was the industry for me – I really love what I do.”
Tom with his award-winning waterproof boat seat
A self-confessed “hands on learner”, Tom thrives in an industry where you are encouraged to learn by doing. Having recently completed a National Certificate in Canvas Fabrication (Level 3) through MITO, Tom can’t recommend it enough. “I really liked being an on-the-job learner,” he says, “it makes the book-work easier too – because when you’ve been hands on and done the tasks, you have a better understanding of what you’re learning.”
Charmans Motor Trimming Managing Director Kimber Buglass – who started out at the business as an apprentice himself – can’t speak highly enough of Tom. “You can tell that he’s been brought up really well by his parents. He knows that when you’ve got a job to do, you get stuck in and do it. He’s got a great work ethic.” This variety has given Tom a great overview of all the facets of the industry, and has helped him choose where he wants to progress to. “I want to get qualified in motor trimming next” he says. “Working on the cars is definitely my favourite part. Seeing the end result of your work is so satisfying.” Even after completing his National Certificate, Tom is still learning new skills each day. “No two days are the same” he says, “there are so many different jobs to be done in this industry.” Luckily for Tom, he gets a taste of all of them in his role. “Charmans is broken up into sections, with each staff member in charge of a different area – from boats, to cars, to shade sails. I get to float in-between these departments and help out wherever it’s busiest.”
This year, that great work ethic saw Tom receive both the Outdoor Fabrics Product Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) 2018 Apprentice of the Year (Tier 2) award, and the overall OFPANZ 2018 Apprentice of the Year award.
The brief was simple – applicants had to design and make something that could be mass produced. “There was a list of features that we had to include like zips, eyelets and domes” says Tom, “but other than that it was really up to me what I wanted to make.” With the idea of mass production in mind, Tom produced a waterproof boat seat, and wowed the judges with his impeccable workmanship.
Tom’s successes came as no surprise to Kimber, who has had four apprentices win OFPANZ awards. “You can pick them straight away,” he says, “Tom is a quiet achiever – he has this ability to look and listen. You’ll show him how to do something a couple of times and then he just nails it!”
“Winning really gave me a confidence boost,” says Tom. “It’s something that I can be proud to put on my CV, and most importantly, it was confirmation from the industry that I’m skilled at what I am doing.”