Much more than just swinging spanners

Careers in Automotive

Cracking a career in Automotive can be a challenge, with many young people keen to secure apprenticeships in the industry.

But persistence paid off for Cait, who printed off her CV and cold-called Collins Automotive – and other businesses – at least eight times before she got a foot in the door.

“I decided this was what I wanted to do so I printed off my CV and came in and asked to talk to the boss – I had to come back four times to catch Jason. I couldn’t find anyone advertising so I just thought, ‘hopefully one of them wants me’ and took the plunge! Before that I think I knocked on about four doors until I found Collins.” 

The FutureForce® Team spoke with Collins’ Auto Electrical Apprentice Cait Finlay – and her boss Jason – to find out what it takes to make it in the industry…

Cait Finlay

Automotive Electrician Apprentice

Top Career Tip

“It’s important to keep a good attitude – people respect you more when you’re positive and you have a good attitude.”

A Chat with Cait about her role

Cait Finlay

Former Rototuna High School Student
Automotive Electrician Apprentice

What is an Auto Electrical Apprentice?

I’m learning the basics of how the electrical system in a vehicle works and operates. There is a little bit of mechanical too but here at Collins, the mechanics do that, so we mainly focus on the electrical side of things. I shadow the qualified auto sparkies as well to learn how things are done.

What got you interested in this pathway?

I was always into cars, but it took me a while to decide to take the plunge because I didn’t want to ruin my hobby. But I wasn’t enjoying my retail job at the time, so I finally decided, “stuff it, I’m doing it!”

What’s a day on the job like?

No day is the same! Today, for example, I came in and had to finish my job from the day before, so I was replacing a window regulator. Then I went on to diagnose faulty headlights and had another car where the brake lights are staying on, so we had to try and figure that out. I do a lot of battery changes in a day, and a lot of bulb changes – standard stuff for an apprentice to be doing. There’s also lots of cleaning and that’s part of an apprentice’s job… sweeping the floors, mopping up oil spills, keeping your bench and the equipment tidy. It’s standard for an apprentice to sweep the floors and change lights. You don’t get to do all the cool jobs all the time, but you do get there eventually.

What have you learnt on the job?

Pretty much everything about the car, how car systems work and I’m still learning every day. Not every car is the same so you’re learning all the time. For example… Mazda does it like this… but a Toyota does it like that!

What’s your advice for people starting out on the job?

I definitely had to learn how to start from the bottom again. I was the manager of two stores and then I came here and had to go back to bottom. I knew it was going to happen, so I was prepared, and it definitely doesn’t last forever. It’s important to keep a good attitude – people respect you more when you’re positive and you have a good attitude. They’re more willing to help you and work with you. You have to put in the hard work and prove you’re reliable.

What do you wish you knew when you were at school?

School isn’t for everyone so if you’re not doing well in that environment, there are other options. There’s so much more out there.

What’s your advice for someone deciding what they might like to do?

If you have an inkling of what you might want to do, just try it! You don’t have to stay in one job forever.

What’s your advice for keeping a good work/life balance?

Make the most of your weekends, rest up and take the time to get outside.

What do you love about working at Collins?

Probably the variety, like if I wanted to I could jump into the mechanical side as well. And just the atmosphere, everyone has a laugh and we all get along.

REV up your automotive career with collins

“Our big strength is our passion about what we all do and a genuine energy to learn and grow. That’s a huge part of what I think inspires our team to do the very best for our customers every day.”

 – Jason Land, Manager Director of Collins Automotive Technicians

Jason and his wife Carley bought the Hamilton business in 2011, when it was an auto-electrical specialist. With a small location, they moved grow the business into the high-profile building they’re in now on Quentin Drive. The building was so large they had to think of a way to fill it, so the natural progression was to add in mechanical services.

An auto-electrician by trade Jason has been in the game for more than 20 years and is proud to lead a team focussed on providing quality vehicle services to the Hamilton community.

Find out more at

What do you look for when taking on a young person?

For us it’s the attitude. We can teach the skills, that’s our job to provide a place to learn, so it’s about the attitude, the willingness to learn and the willingness to be part of our team. Someone who will embrace the culture and wants to learn and is engaged. All of those soft skills you need to have and then we can teach you how to actually do the job.

Why is this a great industry to work in? Any insights you can share with us?

I think our industry is undergoing massive change and the advancements in technology is massive. I think that’s a cool thing for our Auto Electrical Team, there’s so much growth in that space now especially with electric vehicles. So, for a young person looking at a career, auto electrical has massive potential. It’s more appealing than it’s ever been. It’s not so much the dirty under the car, grease monkey type of work, it’s more about diagnostics and understanding how the different communication systems work in vehicles. It’s quite technical which makes it challenging and exciting – it’s more than just swinging spanners now!

What kind of skills, experience or qualifications are helpful in this line of work?

I think if they’ve got an interest in cars is important. It can be a challenging job so having some passion about the automotive industry and cars is important. We used to encourage having a Pre-Trade or a Level 3 but with our last few apprentices we’ve done the level three in house and it’s so much better. We select them for their soft skills and their attitude and then if we can have them at Level 3 and train them up and them doing stuff our way right from the start, it’s better. So really there’s not a lot of back ground that’s expected. Most of the people we have on board play around with cars on the weekend, it’s their hobby and this is somewhere they want to be.

WATCH: Why Choose Collins Automotive Technicians

Download a Snapshot of Cait’s Career Profile