The School-based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year has been awarded to Mercury Marine first-year apprentice Joachim Lopez-Valoa.
Given at the 69th Victorian Training Awards, the award earned him the distinction of Victoria’s top school-based apprentice for 2023.
Currently pursuing a Certificate III in Marine Mechanical Technologies, the 18-year-old has become the first Mercury school-based apprentice to win this award.
Trevor Henri, Mercury Marine ANZP Senior Field Service Manager, says the accomplishment reflects Joachim’s strong work ethic and eagerness to learn.
“We could not be prouder of Joachim for this wonderful achievement,” says Trevor. “He is very enthusiastic and motivated and has shown a knack for being a strong problem solver thanks to his ability to pick up concepts quickly.
“For Mercury, it’s an honour to have someone from our apprenticeship program – the Mercury Academy – be recognised, and it highlights our commitment to educating the next generation of marine mechanics.”
The Mercury Academy operates in partnership with Victorian TAFE provider Kangan and Head Start, the Victorian Government’s school-based apprenticeship and traineeship program for Victorian school students. The apprenticeship program allows students across Victoria to enter the marine industry through a four-year hands-on learning experience with guaranteed job prospects upon completion.
The Mercury Academy program began in 2018 to address the shortage of qualified marine mechanics, raise awareness, and encourage young people to enter the Marine industry.
“The program began in 2018 due to our dealers experiencing a shortage of qualified mechanics,” says Trevor. “I was constantly getting calls from our dealership businesses that were and still are in desperate need of qualified people.
“It is part of a long-term plan to train up and prepare apprentices so once they are qualified, they can then move into the dealer network or fill any vacancies Mercury may have.”
The program has been successful, with Mercury and its dealers employing eight apprentices, including Joachim as a school-based apprentice.
Joachim is based at Mercury Marine Australia’s head office in Dandenong South, where he spends two days a week with Mercury.
“I chose to do a school-based apprenticeship to get real experience in a workshop,” says Joachim. “The value of doing an apprenticeship while still at school allows me to focus on valuable subjects that will help me in the workplace, like maths and physics.
“I like how the courses are set up, and I find it really easy to shift from the theory to practical tasks, with the practical tasks enforcing what I have just learnt.
“My plans once I complete my schooling will be to become a qualified, full-time marine mechanic.”
Joachim is set to represent Victoria at the 2023 Australian Training Awards later this year.
Photography: Mercury Marine