May 15th, 2013

Self confessed 'slow starter' finds fitting career

There can be few careers more fitting than engineering when you’re a prominent Speedway enthusiast with a love of building stock cars. This is certainly the case for Nathan Harris, who in April 2011 completed his Level 4 National Certificate in Engineering and can now use his significant skills in heavy fabrication to help fellow race goers.

“I love Speedway – it’s been my hobby since I got into engineering,” says Nathan who is now on the local Manawatu Speedway committee. Not bad for a 23 year old.  But then again, Nathan’s not shy when it comes to taking on responsibility. 

As Production Supervisor for Stevensons Structural Engineers Ltd in Palmerston North, Nathan has a lot to keep on top of – least of all, two apprentices of his own. “I’ve gone from being an ATNZ apprentice, to being the one cracking the whip for two of our new apprentices,” Nathan laughs, “which is good because they know I’ve been there and I know what they’ve got to do to make it happen. It really helps me get the point across.”

Working closely with Victor Kirikiri, his former ATNZ Account Manager, has been great for Nathan. “Vic and I get along really well. We often have a laugh about who was kicking whose butt back in the day.” Nathan admits feeling challenged at times during his time as an ATNZ apprentice and appreciates how both Victor Kirikiri and Stevensons recognised his potential and stuck by him through it all.

“I was a bit of a slow starter. I got behind in my paperwork and got the hard word from Vic and from Stevensons. I have to say I respect them a whole lot more because of that because I did knuckle down and I proved myself. And it shows now with the position that I’m in at Stevensons.”

Consequently Nathan understands all too well the juggling act facing apprentices nowadays when long work hours can make it tricky finding time to complete course work. Self-discipline is critical. “I struggled,” Nathan says.

“When you’ve come straight from school and you’re used to being pushed by somebody, the real world is a shock. You’ve got to start thinking for yourself. But if you fall behind in your paperwork it’s so much harder to get motivated to do it.”

The hard work paid off for Nathan who says he’s immensely proud to be working for Stevensons, who employed Nathan once he had finished his apprenticeship under ATNZ. It’s a great company involved in a range of interesting and high profile structural engineering projects of national importance such as Te Papa, and the Wellington Airport to the $6m Adidas Institute of Rugby in Palmerston North.

It’s also a company that can offer significant career opportunities for the likes of Nathan, who has his eye on developing his project management capabilities. Not bad for self-confessed ‘slow starter.’