Rotorua apprentice Marty Turek has taken out the Caterpillar Top Apprentice of the Year award in Melbourne.
Turek, who works from Gough Cat's Rotorua branch but is based in Tauranga, defeated five other entrants from Cat dealers, two from Australia, two from the United States and one from Indonesia.
Based over three days the competition included a 10-minute formal presentation, a knowledge assessment that included a 50-question test paper on basic mechanical knowledge, and a skills olympics where six work stations were set up with equipment ranging from the 249D Compact Track Loader, G3606 petrol engine, C175 diesel engine, Reusability, 140M Grader and the Tier4 Interim C9.3 engine.
Turek said it was an extremely challenging three days.
"Some of the machines we had to work on in the competition we do not see in our day-to-day experience. While you had to think outside the square, you also must follow the Caterpillar diagnostic process.
"Caterpillar has a very process-oriented troubleshooting process that you must work through when assessing machines as we did in the skills olympics".
He said some aspects, such as the formal presentation, certainly took him out of his comfort zone.
"We were presenting to a powerful group from Caterpillar, including the head of global learning - definitely not something you experience in your daily working life," he said.
Turek's success did not come without hard work. Having won the New Zealand title as Top Apprentice for Gough Cat last year, the next few months leading up to the Melbourne contest in March were consumed with Cat learning and practical work.
"I went down to Christchurch a couple of times to the Gough Institute of Training to work on different types and aspects of Cat equipment, while I also went through my formal presentation, received feedback and made the necessary tweaks."
It was for his formal presentation, "The Future of Hydraulic Systems", that he was awarded top marks.
He was runner-up in the skills olympics.
Turek, 30, is a relative latecomer to the heavy diesel technician apprenticeship scheme.
"The first phase of my working life was in the hospitality industry, firstly in New Zealand, then overseas including London and also Valencia when it was hosting the America's Cup. I then spent three and a half years in the army, and whereas that was great general experience, I wanted to learn a specific skill.
"I did three months work experience with Gough Cat in Wellington before taking on the apprenticeship in New Plymouth and during that training was lucky enough to work in a range of locations including Stockton, Wellington, Masterton and Palmerston North.
"I only moved to Tauranga late last year as my partner Natalie has a job with Ballance in their head office," he said.
Turek won a two-week trip to Caterpillar Head Office in Peoria, Illinois, plus VIP tours associated with Caterpillar in that country.
Gough Group apprentice and online training adviser Kylie Martin said the battle to win the right to represent the company in Melbourne was intense.
"Last year Gough Cat ran a nationwide internal Top Apprentice Competition to find the top Caterpillar apprentice in the company. Our top six year 4 apprentices were selected to compete in this competition, and in the end a score difference of only 2 per cent separated the first four positions - testimony to the high skill level shown by this group of young technicians.
"As the winner, we put Marty through many exercises from theory tests to reusability exercises. We are indebted to the support from Gough Cat staff in various locations who assisted in these exercises".
Martin said during the formal presentation Turek was the first speaker.
"His presentation was amazing and blew everyone away. I know all the other boys did not want to get up after him and present their presentation.
"For the two-day skills olympics each activity focused on skills that the apprentices had learned and used during their normal daily activities. These were difficult and it is a credit to Marty and his training that he achieved such high marks in this section," she said.