At just 22 years of age, Brayden Conaghan is already making a name for himself in the workshop space.
Based at Penske Australia’s Wacol branch, he joined the company as a diesel mechanic apprentice in 2020 and became fully qualified about six months ago.
Conaghan has earnt himself a reputation as a real team player, who is always willing to step up to any challenge thrown his way.
On November 24, he was named Apprentice of the Year at the 2023 HVIA National Awards Gala Dinner, held in Brisbane.
Humble in his achievement, Conaghan said, “There was a lot of good talent and everyone was super deserving, so I didn’t expect the win.”
And prior to that, at the Brisbane Truck Show in May, he also took part in the 2023 HVIA National Apprentice Challenge, alongside teammate Lachlan Tate from Brown and Hurley. The duo not only walked away with the win – they also became the only team ever to find the mystery fault.
“The National Apprentice Challenge was a great experience and was super rewarding. I had been to TAFE with Lachy so we weren’t complete strangers,” said Conaghan.
“There were a few different faults they get you to find – electrical issues, hydraulic issues, engine faults – so Lachy and I had to work together. We were able to divide the issues and get them all done.”
Asked what attracted him to the industry, Conaghan explained, “I’ve always liked being hands on and fixing things, pulling things apart, seeing how things worked.”
When he first got his car licence, Conaghan had a four-wheel drive with a diesel engine in it, which helped further pique his interest.
Recently, Conaghan moved into Penske Australia’s field service team, working out of a van. From Brisbane, he travels as far south as the Gold Coast, up north into the Sunshine Coast and as far west as Goondiwindi. “There is quite a big range we work out of. I’m out on the road pretty much every day, but sometimes we’ll have vehicles come to us in the workshop,” explained Conaghan.
“Before when I was in the workshop it was mainly anything and everything to do with trucks. Now every day is different – one day I could be working on a truck or a crane, another day it could be a super yacht.
“I really enjoy the variety because the work is always so different so you can never get bored with it.”
Penske Australia & New Zealand currently employs around 1300 people. With so many well known brands under its belt – including the likes of Western Star Trucks, MAN Truck & Bus, Dennis Eagle, Detroit, mtu, Allison Transmission and more – Penske’s apprenticeship program has become highly sought after among budding diesel mechanics.
As the company’s talent acquisition supervisor Corey Masters explained, “Next year we will be putting on about 30 new apprentices. We have three branches in New Zealand and 18 in Australia, with Yatala being the latest one we’ve taken on.
“For those 30 positions, we’ve received about 1000 applications. It can be quite a competitive program to get into, particularly at our busier branches.”
Masters believes what sets the program apart is Penske’s broad product offering. “We create some excellent technicians because of the wide range of products we have. When they complete their apprenticeship, they finish with a good range of experience, so they could really work in any one of our branches around the country.
“For example, they could go out to Mackay or Perth to work in mining or head to Sydney or Melbourne. We have all capital city locations covered. If you can be one of the lucky few to get an apprenticeship with us, upon completion you get an opportunity to work anywhere you want in Australia.”
Due to the high level of interest, apprenticeship applications are being taken earlier and earlier each year. In 2023, they opened in July, with the next cohort beginning their trade in January 2024.
“We look for people with a genuine interest in the field. There’s testing that we put applicants through too as the role of the technician is becoming a lot more complex, particularly with the trucks that we now work on,” Masters added.
Conaghan added that Penske’s apprenticeship program has been the right move for him. As he continues to learn and further his experience in the field, he hopes to one day work his way up into a supervisor or management role.
For those considering a role in the industry, his advice his simple. “Just try it or else there’s no way you’ll know if you do or don’t like it. There’s a lot of opportunity for people that are willing to give it a go.”