From the rugby field to the workshop

September 28, 2022
September 27, 2022

Like many Kiwi boys, Jordan Olsen had dreams of being an All-Black. However, as he got older and “a bit distracted by life,” it was the trades, and engineering in particular, that held his interest.

Jordan Olsen standing outside Morgan Engineering

“I had a little bit of experience in engineering when I was at school, and I liked it,” explains Jordan Olsen, Workshop Manager for Morgan Engineering, and ex-Captain of the Northland Taniwha. “To be honest, I didn't really look at too many other options when it came to a career. I enjoyed welding and enjoyed making things from scratch. It’s been a really great career for me so far.”

Jordan planned to go into an engineering apprenticeship as soon as he finished school. He went straight down to Morgan Engineering in Whangārei and asked them to take him on. Instead, they recommended he go and do the pre-trade course, NZ Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Level 3), at NorthTec.

“It was a good steppingstone for me,” Jordan admits. “Going into it was like the halfway point between a full-time job and school. It made the transition a lot easier. When I was done, Morgan Engineering was happy to take me on as an apprentice, and I knew for sure it was what I wanted to do.”

Since starting at Morgan Engineering in 2011 Jordan has moved from apprentice to tradesman before being promoted to a Lead Hand which is a senior tradesman position. He’s since stepped up again to Workshop Manager.

“Now, whenever the young ones come in looking for an apprenticeship, I typically send them down the road to NorthTec’s Future Trades Campus to get some study in first.”

Despite a recent surge in people undertaking trades training, Jordan says there is still lots of room for people wanting to get into the industry.

“Every tradie I talk to is after a good apprentice or good tradesmen,” he admits. “There is obviously still a big demand for new employees. I want to encourage as many people as possible to get into the industry. If the trades stop, the world stops progressing. Society needs tradesmen.”

One of the biggest issues with getting new trades men and women into the industry is the training time. Apprentices and new hires need training and businesses aren’t always able to do that themselves which is why Jordan tells people wanting to get an apprenticeship to go to NorthTec first.

“That way, when they do start their apprenticeship, they can start with much less hand-holding than they would otherwise. The most important part is the theory side. It’s hard to teach theory in the workshop, more practical skills are learnt there. The courses at NorthTec teach you all the theory and the basics of the practical skills you need.”

Jordan didn’t give up his dream of being an All-Black, despite mechanical engineering taking a vast chunk of his attention.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose NorthTec, I didn’t have to leave home and I could still play rugby up here,” Jordan admits. “I took two years off full rugby training while I did my apprenticeship, which may not have helped my rugby career, but I was still able to play and study at the same time.”

Jordan still managed to become the Captain of the Northland Taniwha. When asked if he had planned for engineering to be a backup should his rugby career not take off, Jordan laughed.

“Quite the opposite, actually. I think rugby was the backup for engineering. I like rugby and I’m happy to take it as far as I can go but I don’t want to take it too seriously. Like I said, I had those couple of years off to focus on becoming an engineer. That’s what I always wanted to do.”

Studying a trade before going into an apprenticeship not only teaches people valuable skills and gets them a step ahead, but it also gives people a taste of the industry itself. That way, people know they want to continue before they commit to an apprenticeship.

“Even if people decide that trade isn’t for them, they’ve still learnt valuable skills,” Jorden explains. “And skills in the trades are very transferable.”

Careers NZ’s website shows job opportunities in mechanical engineering, and in fact, most trades, are currently very good with a high demand for skilled workers or apprentices all around Aotearoa New Zealand.

This need seems unlikely to diminish any time soon, many tradespeople around the country are fully booked for months in advance. With demand only increasing, now is a fantastic time to get into the trades.

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