She’s a grease girl — that is, a qualified automotive technician. She competed against the best in her trade at Oceania and the WorldSkills International Competition in 2015 in Sao Paulo. She came on top of a national driving competition. She fixes bikes and rides them, too.
Chelcie Kuriger grew up in a farm fixing bikes and tractors, and learned to drive in a paddock. She does, however, credit her interest in cars sparked by her dad, who was a diesel mechanic.
“Dad was really into his HSV Commodores and we used to always watch the V8 Supercars,” she shares.
Getting into automotive technology was influenced by her father, as well. “My dad, he suggested it as a possible career path while I was in high school. Also where I was doing work experience at Goodhue Automotive.”
She consquently went to Wintec to study for an automatic trade apprenticeship, where she cites that there were just four girls in the 120 who made up the course. One of them was Emily Blake, with whom Chelcie teamed up with to join the Ford Test Driver, an 8-week competition that put teams to the ultimate test in a battle of motors and minds.
Chelcie and Emily succeeded in their quest to “destroy the age old theory that women can’t drive,” beating a men’s pair in the finals.
Soon after, Chelcie joined the WorldSkills regional competition in Waikato and won in the automotive technology skill category. She then competed in the 2014 WorldSkills National Competition and was awarded the gold medal.
Such earned her a spot in the New Zealand team, which participated in Oceania, where she won second place. She also got the opportunity to go to Brazil in 2015 and compete in the WorldSkills International Competition.
“Representing NZ in Sao Paulo changed the way I work massively. I have a lot more confidence in what I do, and I learnt so much from my training to get where I was that I still use in day-to-day jobs. I also had a lot of people come and see me, because they saw me in the paper or in an article of sorts,” she says about her experience.
As for working in a traditionally male-oriented job, Chelcie doesn’t notice many issues. ” All my the previous employers I’ve had have been very supportive of me and what I do.”
She does, however, note, “There is the odd generation customer that doesn’t believe I should be working here, bit majority of customers love that I do what I do and ask a lot of questions about it.”
Chelcie currently works at Collins Automotive Technicians in Hamilton, where most days she does servicing and repairs. She cites that she does lots of brake jobs.
Despite these accomplishments under her belt, this 23-year-old has clear career goals. “I’m training to become a WoF inspector. I’m starting my auto electrical apprenticeship this year, as well,” she says and adds that, “I’d also like to look into a management role and potentially starting a business of my own in the future.”
Chelcie has a great future ahead of her, but isn’t all work and no play. When she’s not tinkering with an automotive vehicle, you can catch her dancing rock ‘n roll, coaching kids, playing social netball, or driving around on her motorbike.