Apprentice of the Year a story of resilience

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30 November 2020

Perseverance and passion were rewarded for Lachlan Hamilton-Ralph, named the Apprentice Training New Zealand (ATNZ) Apprentice of the Year 2020 at an awards ceremony in Auckland.

General engineering apprentice Lachlan was runner-up for the award in 2019, which celebrates an ATNZ apprentice who demonstrates outstanding performance in their work, a great attitude, is proactive on the job and demonstrates pride and enjoyment in what they do.

This is the third year of the annual awards for ATNZ, a not-for-profit group training organisation (GTO) that employs more than 330 engineering apprentices and places them with host companies around New Zealand where they do their learning.

Following feedback from the judges that year, he and his workplace Obtuse Limited worked hard to prepare him for another shot at the coveted award, and he was delighted to walk away with the trophy.

“It feels amazing to have won after coming runner-up last year. It’s been good to get the job done. I really wanted to win it because I’m nearly at the end of my apprenticeship and this would be my last opportunity to give it another go,” Lachlan said.

“Last year they said the winner had more responsibilities. My boss heard that and over the year we’ve been working on changing the work atmosphere. Now, I help look after one of the other apprentices as well as being given more responsibility on my own and looking after others on jobs too. I was hoping I’d do well this year after making those adjustments.”

Representing the judges, ATNZ General Manager Susanne Martin said they had a difficult time coming to their decision on the winner.

“I say it every year, but it’s true: the calibre of applications and the passion for their work and studies exemplified in those submissions, continues to blow the minds of the judging panel. This year has been the toughest yet. Our judges were spellbound by the level of detail, high standard of references, and touches of humour. On more than one occasion they were heard to remark: ‘Can’t we give it to them all?’”

Ms Martin described how they were impressed with Lachlan’s thoughtful and thorough application and glowing supporter statements.

“Lachlan’s exemplary references, particularly from Obtuse customers, his outstanding study performance, and the variety of extra responsibilities he has taken on, really wowed us. We were also inspired by his resilience, in the face of both a challenging year with the global pandemic and in coming back for a second crack at the award after being runner up last year. His passion for a trades career in engineering also shone through.”

In support of his application, Obtuse Director (and Lachlan’s father) Clinton Hamilton-Ralph describes Lachlan as “an exceptional tradesman in the making” and “an absolute blessing in a fast-paced, busy company”.

Along with the glass trophy, which Lachlan said will proudly go on the shelf in the offices of Obtuse Limited, Lachlan receives $1,000 of power tools courtesy of sponsors NZ Safety Blackwoods, plus a $1,000 gift card to spend at JBHiFi.

This year, ATNZ whittled the pile of Apprentice of the Year applicants down to a top four. Each travelled to Auckland for the ceremony and BBQ breakfast for local tradies, finalists, and their supporters at NZ Safety Blackwoods’ new flagship store in Penrose.

Finalists included the first female finalist in the award’s history, Erin Tong, who is working towards her New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering – Machining, with Hastings host company We Can Precision Engineering. Also finalists were Waikari Beckett, heavy fabrication apprentice with Kawerau host company, McKenzie & Ridley Ltd, and Liam Humm, a Christchurch-based maintenance engineering apprentice with Kraft Heinz.

Ms Martin congratulated the four finalists on being recognised as the best examples of what ATNZ and their host companies are all about.

The four finalists (left to right): Liam Humm, Lachlan Hamilton-Ralph, Waikari Beckett, Erin Tong.