Give it a go!
Career Pathways with Stafford Engineering
If you’re good at drawing and loved LEGO® as a kid, a career in engineering might be for you.
Just ask former Te Awamutu College student Daniel, who is smashing out his Machining Apprenticeship at Stafford Engineering in Hamilton.
Check out below what Daniel has to say about his career pathway at Stafford… and here’s some of his key tips for life after school:
- Don’t feel pressure to take a certain path – so long as you are doing something, you will be okay.
- Learn to listen – older people have a lot to teach you.
- Always start what you finish, and don’t be scared of asking for help along the way.
- Honesty is important. Dishonesty will always bite you in the butt.
- Check out TikTok for cool videos on different engineering processes!
Top Career Tip
“Just give it a go, have an open mind and a willingness to try everything. Be a sponge and learn from everyone.”
A Chat with Daniel about his role
Former Te Awamutu College student
What do you on the job?
At the moment I’m running a CNC lathe. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, so I input instructions into the computer and the controller. The machine then outputs what you want it to do. You’ve got to a set up the work, tool offsets and things, and write the programme. So there’s also some programming involved. CNC Lathes are normally used for machining parts.
How did you get interested in this career?
To be honest it was LEGO® Technic. I was at my Uncle’s house and he bought my cousin a set and he didn’t like it so I started building it and took it home. I was told to go to bed but I stayed up all night making it and it just spanned from there… buying more and more sets. When I was old enough I left school in year 12, I went to do a Diploma in Mechnical Engineering rather than staying for year 13. It was quicker to leave in Year 12, do a diploma and then get credited for a degree afterwards. That way if I decided I didn’t want to complete a degree I still came out with a qualification. Then I decided to do an apprenticeship afterwards. Later on I can go back, finish the year and get the degree if I feel inclined.
How did you get started at Stafford Engineering?
For my apprenticeship, I started looking at places to work. I did look at Stafford to begin with, but at the time it was really hard to find an apprenticeship. Then I looked around New Zealand for opportunities and heard back from a business in Hawkes Bay so ended up going down there to work for about two years. I didn’t particulary like it down there and wanted to come back to Waikato, so I reached out to ATNZ, the organisation who arranged by apprenticeship, to find another host company. They suggested Stafford Engineering, who were keen to have me, and I got the job the next week!
Stafford had a reputation for having good machining workshops!
What have you learnt on the job so far?
Before I started my apprenticeship I had only minimal experience on manual machines. So I have learnt how to mill, turn, and lots of other types of machining like air cutting and surface cutting. I learn about Wire EDM which is a type of subtractive manufacturing – they can make stuff to real high tolerances. Like if you have a square block it can cut a star out of it and then cut a star out of another material and they’ll slit together and they’ll disappear inside the other one. There’s plenty of videos on Tiktok! Then I started running a CNC milling machine, learning lots about that and then as I’ve moved up, I started working back in the manual workshop running manual machines again.
What challenges have you come across and how have you dealt with them?
When you’re young you have lots of ideas and you want to look at doing things in different ways. Learning to compromise with others who like to do things their own way has been a learning curve. In the engineering industry there are older people with a lot of knowledge and it’s about learning how to work with everyone. Pretty much everybody has a different way of doing things and it’s really your job to evolve them together to the way you think is best. So long as you can explain to people why you’re choosing to do it this way, most people are receptive.
What do you love about your job?
The stuff we do needs to be precise, and I like making things right. I enjoy being able to make things just the way they’re supposed to be so this is quite fun for me. I like having the versatility and knowledge to be able to run lots of different machines. When you get given a task you need to complete it. It might not just be one process you’re using – you’ve got to do different types of work on different machines to get one end product.
What are some of the challenges that you have found?
I think age is a massive part, sometimes I might have some more experience than some of the new people but I think some people see age first and not take you as seriously, even if you might have good ideas. You have to stick it out but do make your position known. You can’t be quiet and sit in the corner and not say anything. As long as you stay true to yourself and express what you think, I think it’s quite important you back yourself and have that self-belief.
I found team work to be a bit challenging. When you’re at school, yes you do team work but it’s a completely different environment and you have to manage different departments especially in such a big company. Sometimes you find it challenging to try and manage your ideas different people’s ideas and find a mutual agreement. Project management was also something I found hard and managing all the different people in the team and all the different personalities. No one can really teach you what’s the best way, you just have to learn on the job. And if you make a mistake don’t be embarrassed by it, just learn from it.
What do you love most about working at Stafford Engineering?
I enjoy having the independance to give things a go, and having a bit of time to try things and learn while I am doing it. I’ve had other workplaces where you don’t have the time to learn stuff, and I like having a bit more space to soak up knowledge. Having a supportive learning environment is probably the best thing I’m finding at the moment. The best thing you can do is ask questions because other people won’t know what to tell you unless you ask them about what you’re struggling with.
What is a CNC Lathe?
A CNC lathe (CNC turning machine) is a machine that spins material around a central spindle and a fixed cutting tool. Instead of being controlled by physical labor, the movement of your components is determined by coded instructions fed to a computer.
Tips & Advice
What do you wish you knew when you left school?
Knowing what you want to do when you leave school is not critical. You just need to choose something and try it out. If it’s the wrong thing you can always do something else. So you’ve just got to do something no matter what it is, just something. I would say not stressing so much over choosing the “right” career when you’re leaving school is my best advice.
Also knowing that there are many pathways other than uni. Lots of people ask you, “what course are you going to do?” but I’ve found the best two things have been leaving school but continuing study while you’re still in the groove of things or leaving to work to gain work experience. Then you will have a bit more money to make going to uni easier.
What advice do you have for keeping balanced/managing stress?
Learning how to study will reduce the stress. It really depends on what you find the best way to learn. As soon as you figure this out, it’s much easier.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever recieved?
Learning how to study will make everything much easier. If you do an apprenticeship like this, the paperwork is much easier because you can manage yourself a bit better and if you do get good at it, then it’s not that big of a workload. It takes the pressure off!
What sort of person do you need to be for this work?
Someone who has a general interest in engineering will be a good start! With machining, you’ve got to be good at working alone because you’re sometimes given a task which you complete by yourself. Then once you’ve finished you pass it on to the next person in the process. So you’ve got to be good at self managing and recognising when you need to work with others or ask for advice.
It’s useful if you are someone who enjoys tinkering with things and who is inquisitive of why things work or how do they work. And also knowing how to communicate with people is important because problems happen when you don’t understand what is required. Having good understanding and communicating well with people is key.
You’ve got to have good work ethic to start with… turn up to work and be reliable. Honesty is important, and you will come across people who aren’t honest… like when they have a bit of a “boo-boo” they try to sweep it under the rug. It’s good to be honest because in the long run, dishonesty will bite you in the butt! It’s better to just admit when you are wrong and accept your mistakes. People will trust and respect you more.
Useful school subjects/qualifications?
Graphics & Design. Being able to draw things is a very good skill because a lot of people can’t draw, and so being able to draw an object is key because it allows you to explain stuff without using any words. So when you’re not good at explaining things to people you can draw it for them. Most people can understand a drawing when you explain it well enough, so that removes that kind of uncertainty.
Definitely Maths. I did calculus which was good when I was doing my NZDE (New Zealand Diploma in Engineering).
Physics is key, so having general understanding how forces relate to each other when you’re using different machinery. This is a really good one.
I’ve completed the Diploma of Mechanical Engineering, Wintec – Te Pūkenga.
About Stafford Engineering
Stafford Engineering is a successful Hamilton business with a proud history of developing world-class engineers for the future.
Established in 1986, Stafford is a multi-disciplined precision engineering company servicing clients involved in the local and global food processing, packaging and pharmaceutical industries.
Stafford started life as a machine shop and has grown to include world-class design and fabrication capability, with about 60 team members committed to keeping customers happy and business humming.
Learn more about Stafford Engineering stafford.co.nz
Key strengths for this type of work include:
- Being “hands-on”
- Having an eye for detail
- Good problem solving skills
- Being mechanically minded
- Basic understanding of computer programming
- Good at maths
- Able to multi-task
- Listening skills