Ten questions with Training Advisor Courtney Clapham

June 24, 2024

Palmerston North Training Advisor Courtney Clapham knows what it takes to be a successful mechanical engineering apprentice — as she was once one herself. This first-hand experience allows her to relate to the challenges faced by apprentices, making her a trusted mentor at Competenz.

In her role, Courtney supports both engineering employers and learners with work-based training. Her journey from apprentice to training advisor is filled with insights and experiences that shape her approach to mentorship.

Courtney shares ten interesting facts about her role, providing a unique perspective on her work supporting the next generation of mechanical engineers.

1. What has been your career path?

At 21, I worked in a maintenance crew for a food company in Australia, where I completed a fitter and turner apprenticeship. I qualified in 2014 and moved to New Zealand, where my family were originally from. I landed a fabrication job, which gave me a whole new range of skills beyond maintenance. Over the last 10 years, I've grown my engineering experience by taking on different career opportunities, including giving dairy farming a go before realising I missed working on projects.

I wanted to get off the tools but stay in the industry eventually. I wasn't sure what that would be doing until this job opportunity came up to become a training advisor for engineering, which I felt couldn't be more perfect for what I was seeking.

2. What are you passionate about?

Seeing people succeed in a trade I'm passionate about and being a part of that has made this new step in my career extremely rewarding. It has been a huge learning curve for me, but I'm enjoying the challenge and enjoying the process

3. Are you a role model to other female learners in this male-dominated industry?

I would like to think I am a role model for other female learners in the industry. It's too early to know my impact in this role, but I have several female friends who have decided to do trades after talking to me about mine. It is a cool feeling to be able to inspire them to go after something they thought they wouldn't be able to do. 


4. How does an Australian mechanical engineering apprenticeship differ from a NZ one?

The real difference between Australian and New Zealand mechanical engineering apprenticeships is there is a very heavy focus on machining with no other electives in Australia, whereas it is a little broader here for learners in New Zealand. We also had to attend class every Monday for three years rather than online learning. 


5. What are the biggest challenges facing your apprentices at the moment?

The challenges vary across the board with people's different ages and responsibilities outside of work. The main one for apprentices is continuing to stay motivated when they face the pressures of overtime. By the time they get home, it's often too late to stay focused on their computer work.

Literacy can also be a challenge for many learners, but Competenz has study groups to support people struggling with reading and writing. Also offering one on one support to learners through Literacy Aoteraoa.

6. Do you have any mantras or sayings that you live by?

Comparison is a thief of joy.


7. What is a fact about yourself that surprises people?

I was born and raised in Australia but lived a short time in New Zealand when I was eight, attending a small school in Marton for one year. My Aussie accent throws everyone off! 


8. What is your favourite way to spend a weekend?

This would be having one day to go motocross riding and one day with no plans. 


9. Have you competed in Motocross –and how far have you gone with it?

Yes, I have competed before! I raced a little in Australia but didn't get right into it until I moved here in2014. For seven years, all I did was ride, train, and race all around New Zealand. I have only raced in three women's national motocross events, finishing in fifth position for New Zealand twice. I've had a few first-place wins around the local clubs. After injuring myself a few years ago, I decided to step back, and now I just ride for fun. 

10. Do you have any pets?

I have a Dalmatian dog called Narla that I brought over from Australia when I moved here, and I have a cat named Lexie who thinks she's a dog. Lexie loves everyone. 


"Courtney's previous industry background, knowledge, and  experience are her best capabilities. This allows her to establish a  professional and trusting relationship with her apprentices and their  employers as she can 'talk the talk' and support her apprentices in a  mana-enhancing way.

"Relationship building is a crucial factor in the training advisor-apprentice-employer  partnership, and Courtney can achieve this in a supportive and positive way."   

 Eric Kneepkens: Courtney's boss and Competenz Regional Manager Apprenticeships