• Skilling South Australia

In the loop for supercars success

REVVED UP: Third-year motor vehicle apprentice Ben Roether is thrilled to be working at the Superloop Adelaide 500 this year. Picture: Mike Burton/The Advertiser.

Courtesy of The Advertiser.

Ben Roether always knew he wanted a career in the fast lane. Born with a passion for cars partly fuelled by his father, a former Holden employee, Roether joined the Motor Trade Association of South Australia (MTA) after finishing Year 12. Now in the third year of his four-year apprenticeship at Stillwell Ford in Medindie, he is about to experience a dream come true – working at the Superloop Adelaide 500.

Each year, MTA apprentices get the chance to join the Motorsports Repair Team at the annual Supercars event, either in pit lane with a V8 Supercar team or working on vehicles from other race categories. Competition among the apprentices is fierce: Roether unsuccessfully applied for the role in the first and second years of his apprenticeship – this year, it’s third time lucky.

“It’s really awesome,” the 22-year-old says. “I’ll be in the MTA pit tent working on the Aussie cars and the Toyota 86 Series, which will come to us if they need fixing. And I might be in one of the V8 teams, hopefully: I’m not really fussed which team, as long as I can work on a car.”

The hands-on skills Roether has learned during his apprenticeship – from removing gearboxes to replacing heads, servicing, brake repairs, diagnostics and more – have given him a deep understanding of the range and depth of the automotive industry.

“I’ve learned a lot,” he says. “I really want to get more into diagnostics. I finish my apprenticeship in 2021, then hopefully I can start my Ford Master Technician, to get more experience and increase my skills. Hopefully one day I’ll get to join a racing team and work on the V8s.”

The rapid change in automotive technology is bringing new opportunities for employment, MTA SA chief executive Paul Unerkov says. “The automotive industry is undergoing rapid change with the emergence of electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles while advanced diagnostic and repair methods are providing a range of exciting opportunities for young people,” he says.

And the changing workplace means apprentices like Roether are now working in highly technical environments.

Paul Richardson, group service manager of Stillwell Ford and Kia in Medindie, says cars have so much more technology these days. “There’s auto-collision assist, auto-braking, cruise control, Bluetooth – it is definitely going towards that bias,” says Paul Richardson, group service manager, Stillwell Ford and Kia in Medindie.

“Everything used to be hands-on work, with one auto-electrician and lots of mechanics. In the future, it’s going to be the other way around.”

Stillwell Ford currently employs eight apprentices and Richardson says they are the lifeblood of the industry. “Apprentices are very important to Stillwell Ford,” he says. “There’s a shortage of skilled technicians so to grow your own apprentices is the ideal thing.”

“The world’s your oyster after your apprenticeship,” Richardson says. “You could go on to diesel, work for a race team, go into customer facing, be a service manager... there’s lots of avenues to go down.

“The future is going to be really cool for the industry, with driverless cars, electric vehicles and all those aspects.

“We just need the right people to join the industry.”

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