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Passion turns to gold for Castlepoint mechanic

Private Roger Laing. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

With his father a mechanic, Roger Laing was always around when vehicles were being repaired.

A country kid raised in Castlepoint, he grew up with grease on his hands, progressing from “torch holder” to “spanner grabber” as he became more attuned to what was going on.

Those early years trailing after his father paid off – as he won gold in the Automotive Technology category at the WorldSkills New Zealand National Competition.

Now a New Zealand Army 3 Workshop Company soldier based at Burnham, Private Laing lives and breathes vehicles – of any sort.

And while he credits his parents for his early enthusiasm, it’s the time and effort the army puts into training that he said was mostly behind his success.

After five years at boarding school he found barrack life easy. And when he began his trade training he was more than familiar with the basics.

“From working with Dad I sort of had a good bit of experience with it all,” he said. “However, the army also provides really high-quality training.”

The best bit about his job was sorting out problems, he said.

“Especially when you’re away from the workshop and you don’t necessarily have the correct tool for the job, but instead have to think outside the box to get something done.

“Being out in the bush and having something break is never ideal. So, you occasionally end up with some temporary, unorthodox repairs just to get you home.”

When he finishes work each day, he tinkers with his own vehicles.

“I’ve got a few vehicles in Burnham, mostly broken or in various states of repair.”

For the WorldSkills competition, competitors had to work their way through six challenges designed to test a range of automotive knowledge from electrical to steering and suspension, gearbox, motor, and industry theory.

“We were given two hours to complete each stand to the highest standard we could manage, losing points for simple things like not wearing the correct protective equipment at all times.”

The next step for Private Laing is three months of intense training at Trade Training School before the WorldSkills International competition in Russia in August next year.

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