Technician gearing up for new trade

Arend Sijnja has just completed a New Zealand Certificate in Heavy Automotive Engineering. PHOTO:...
Arend Sijnja has just completed a New Zealand Certificate in Heavy Automotive Engineering. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
If you had asked Arend Sijnja anything about trucks four years ago, he would have been stumped.

These days, he can quickly diagnose faults in heavy vehicles, and definitely knows one brand from another.

The 45-year-old vehicle technician is the first-ever graduate of Otago Polytechnic Te Pūkenga’s new heavy automotive engineering course.

"It’s been quite a cool journey to get here. I wanted a complete change in my career," Mr Sijnja said.

"I’m not much of a vehicle person, my friends are more into that sort of thing."

He had worked for mining company Macraes for nearly two decades.

"I didn’t really know anything about trucks when I started. I had no real exposure to it."

Mr Sijnja said he began taking the course during the Covid-19 pandemic, so for much of the first year, he had to do it online.

He enjoyed it more once it became more face-to-face, and eventually had a work placement, and then a job, at automotive engineering firm CablePrice in Dunedin.

"They have been a great support; I’ve really enjoyed listening and learning on the job," Mr Sijnja said.

Te Pūkenga senior lecturer in heavy automotive engineering Daniel Oskam said the course was created in response to requests from the heavy motor vehicle industry for better expertise.

When the course started about three years ago, it had four students.

Next year, there will be over 40.

"We look at every aspect of a vehicle from oil changes to diagnosing faults," Mr Oskam said.

"The heavy vehicle industry is just growing and growing, and there’s a huge shortage in specialists.

"The industry really seems to like what we’re delivering."

Mr Sijnja said he had enjoyed studying the theory, but anticipated much of the "real learning" would happen on the job.

"It feels real now," he said.

Mr Oskam said heavy automotive engineering was an evolving industry.

"There are hundreds of different ways to identify faults, and just as many ways to address them," he said.

"It’s like a doctor diagnosing a patient; you need to know the theory, but you also have to put it into practice."