Passion Turns to Gold For Army Mechanic

4 December 2018

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

A country kid in rural Wairarapa, 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 – he won gold in the Automotive Technology category at the recent WorldSkills New Zealand National Competition.

Now a New Zealand Army 3 Workshop Company soldier based at Burnham, Private Laing lives and breathes vehicles – any sort of vehicles. And while he credited 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 down here in Burnham, mostly broken or in various states of repair.”

Private Laing said he felt good about winning gold at the WorldSkills competition.

“It was a good competition. There were six stands, so it really tests your general automotive trade knowledge, and although it was all light vehicles, the heavy vehicle mechanic training was still applicable to most vehicles.”

The stands were engine electrical, steering/suspension/wheel alignment and brakes, gearbox, vehicle body electrical, motor, and automotive 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 the WorldSkills International competition in Russia next year, where he will represent New Zealand in the Automotive Technology category.

“With this in mind I will have a comprehensive training package over a three-month period at Trade Training School, which should get me to the world-class standard of the competition,” he said.

This page was last reviewed on 7 February 2019.