In this article, ARCA’s Mike Smith congratulates the 2020 Capricorn Rising Star Apprentice of the Year and her employer

Gabrielle Clift from Highfields Mechanical and Off Road (QLD) is the first female winner of the Capricorn Rising Stars apprentice competition. (From left to right) Owner Craig Baills, Capricorn Sales Manager QLD Wayne Burton, Capricorn Rising Stars Apprentice of the Year Gabrielle Clift and Co-Owner Katherine Baills.

I was exceptionally pleased to see the Capricorn Rising Star Apprentice of the Year Awards return for 2020 to recognise and celebrate some amazing stars of our industry’s next generation.
Across Australia and New Zealand, more than 250 apprentices were nominated this year across industry sectors including panel and paint, auto electrical, heavy diesel, tyre/wheel and general mechanical workshops.
From those deserving nominees, the highly respected Capricorn Rising Stars judging panel selected Lachlan Fraser (JMH Group, WA), Gabrielle Clift (Highfields Mechanical and Off Road, QLD), Dylan Quinn (Carrington Street Auto Repairs, SA), Abby Price (Bensons Auto Clinic, NZ) and Lochlan Robinson (NCD Custom Refinishing, NSW) as their five finalists, with Gabrielle announced as the ultimate victor.
Alongside this title, Gabrielle will also receive prizes including an all-expenses paid Castrol Supercars Experience and Workshop Whisperer Leadership Academy training. Meanwhile her employer, Highfields Mechanical and Off Road, has been awarded 150,000 Capricorn Bonus Points for their winning nomination.
I was pleased to speak with both Gabrielle and her employer recently about this great news.
“Honestly, I was shocked to find out that I had won. Wayne (Burton – Capricorn Sales Manager, QLD) was at Highfields Mechanical because I had made the top five finalists, and whilst we were taking some photos, he announced I was the winner. I was shocked but at the same time, delighted and humbled,” Gabrielle said.
“There are so many young apprentices in Australia and New Zealand that are striving to learn about the industry and all achieving high quality work, so I certainly did not expect to win.
“Being recognised in this way gives me confidence to know I am heading in the right direction. I have a strong passion to thrive within this industry and being recognised by such a significant group of industry professionals is truly an honour that cannot be defined.
“I think it is great to have an award such as this which encourages apprentices to excel and gives them recognition for the hard work they put in. As apprentices we are excited and driven to learn as much as we can, to become knowledgeable technicians.
“Receiving this award gives me some extra motivation to keep moving forward and learning as much as I possibly can, in what is an ever-changing industry. The automotive industry is changing at a pace which has never been seen before. The technology and innovation vehicles are coming out with now is exciting and learning how to master that is truly exhilarating.
“I wish to thank (Highfields Mechanical Owners) Craig and Katherine Baills for believing in me and (fellow Highfields apprentice) Tarquin. Their knowledge of the automotive industry is phenomenal and we appreciate their enthusiasm and continual encouragement to keep learning and striving for excellence in all we do. They are truly an inspiration.
“I also want to thank the entire Highfields Mechanical Team who have each helped me to learn and develop my skills and are like a second family, and also the Martins – Craig, Kim and Sam – who have been amazing in helping me to pursue my Mechanical apprenticeship by connecting me with Highfields Mechanical. They have truly opened a new door for me and have been such a great help through this amazing journey and I am truly grateful.
“Finally, my thanks goes to the Capricorn Judging Panel for this opportunity. I am so grateful to be the recipient of this award. I am sure there were many deserving apprentices and that it was a difficult decision. 
“To all the other apprentices in Australia and New Zealand, I want to say well done on being nominated. You were nominated because you are striving and excelling in your apprenticeship. We are the future of the automotive industry and I am excited to work alongside you all. Keep up with the great work!”
For Highfields Mechanical Owner, Craig Baills, it was a very proud moment to see Gabrielle succeed in this prestigious competition.
“We currently have three apprentices and we made the decision to nominate both Gabrielle and Tarquin as they are both fully invested in learning and being the best they can be with the apprenticeship,” Craig said.
“I was extremely stoked to hear Gabrielle had achieved the win. It was totally unexpected but on the same part, completely deserved. She puts in the effort day in and day in out and I feel it was a win for both her and Tarquin. I am extremely proud of them both.
“It is great that she is getting this recognition for her hard work and efforts; and for us as a business, it means we are operating in the right manner as a host and employer for apprentices in this trade and it gives us reassurance we are doing the right training by our apprentices.
“It has been noted this is the first time a woman has won the award which is great, but also Gabrielle loves what she does and is treated like all of the other technicians – she chose to be a mechanic and she doesn’t expect any special treatment based on gender.
“This is a long-term, rewarding career and as an industry I think it is important we work together to develop initiatives to encourage people into the trade and to keep techs in the trade. I think the Capricorn Rising Stars concept is an awesome idea and a great avenue for apprentices to be rewarded for their willingness to learn. It generates the competitive nature in apprentices, and it is great to see them wanting to be involved.
“I would like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the nominees and the finalists, they all need a special mention for their hard work.
“Anytime we can recognise the achievements of anyone in the trade, it can only benefit the trade for the future. We are in a different era, and now more than ever, we need to be diligent in making sure the industry is receiving the correct training and advice to produce the best techs that we can.”
I hope you will join me in congratulating Gabrielle and all of the Capricorn Rising Stars Finalists for their efforts.

In this series of articles, Automotive Repairers Council of Australia (ARCA) convener, Mike Smith, will take a look at issues that will affect automotive repairer workshops and topics of interest to the sector including occasional profiles of mechanics and other key personnel. msmith@aaaa.com.au