Tikipunga High School's Automotive Trades Academy is aiming to provide a solution to a skill shortage and is seeing increasing enrolments of female students on its course.
The academy, which is based at Tikipunga but open to students from all high schools, has just wrapped up another year by rolling out its project car – a Holden Commodore – and the talented 12 graduates, including five females, who brought the car back to life.
The academy students are from years 12 and 13 and can use the credits gained in the course to help them access the trade.
Tutor Clint McEwen said the academy students spend three periods of their five each day in the academy, leaving them free to pursue additional subjects.
"We work with NorthTec and Gateway, to help the students step into further training and work experience. The industry is crying out for new people," he said.
The programme is funded under the Tai Tokerau Trades Trust.
Mr McEwen, a qualified mechanic who also works for Northland Toyota, said the students learn everything from panel beating, brakes and fuel systems, to engine operating systems, vehicle diagnostics and steering and suspension.
"We also help them get their driver's licences."
He said there was a changing trend occurring, which meant more female students were signing up.
"They know they can do this – it's a career option for them and they do well. This year, we have five female students, when last year we had just three."
The academy is supported by a number of automotive companies, with Wayne Tupe from Morgan Auto Painters volunteering with the students.
"He has taken the time to help us paint the car, supplying us with the materials and showing the students how to prep and repair the bodywork for the car."
He said the academy also had support from The Tint Shop, Repco, Frankensigns and Aerotech.
"We're so grateful for the support from the industry."
The highlight of the year was when the students rolled out their finished project car.
"We buy a cheap car – they're usually a bit of a wreck – and we service and revamp it, give it a good paint job, including the school logo. Then the car goes into the school fleet.
The students feel a great sense of ownership and pride when they reveal the car," he said.
Mr McEwen was now running interviews for next year's academy.