KEEGAN MACNEIL’s dream is to one day work as a chief engineer on a superyacht, travelling the world and being paid to do so.
The 19-year-old is on the path to making this dream a reality, working as an apprentice marine systems engineer at General Marine Services in Auckland’s Westhaven.
Full of variety, his job sees him doing anything from plumbing up a black water tank on a 12-metre sailing yacht, to setting valve clearances on a ferry or assisting with the instalment of a $500,000 freshwater plant on a superyacht.
Keegan’s favourite part of the job is working on the big 16-litre V8 Scania engines and the comradery of working as part of a team. “The problem solving is a great character-building experience, which has given me a lot more confidence in what I do,” he says.
“Every day comes with new challenges and that’s also a part of why I love the job. I have to be switched on all the time so that when problems do arise, I’m already on top of them.”
Keegan’s dad is a marine engineer, so he grew up knowing what the job involved, but it wasn’t until he started taking Automotive as a subject at Onehunga High School that a real interest in engines began.
An opportunity to work in the industry opened when a representative from NZMAC ITO’s Launch It, School to Work programme came to talk to Keegan’s automotive class.
“She advertised the opportunity to take part in a pre-apprenticeship role in marine systems engineering at General Marine Services,” Keegan remembers. “When I heard that I would be working on superyacht engines, I was sure that was what I wanted to do.”
Designed to connect senior high-school students interested in a career in the marine or composites industries with employers, the School to Work programme has allowed Keegan to pursue a career in marine engineering. Students are employed on a part-time basis, usually spending 1-2 days per week at work and 3- 4 days at school. As well as gaining credits towards NCEA Levels 2 and 3, students receive credits towards an NZMAC ITO industry qualification, explore career options and gain valuable work experience.
Eighteen months into his Marine Systems Engineer Level 4 General Marine Services apprenticeship, Keegan says Automotive and Physics have been the most useful school subjects in his new career. The other subjects he took in Year 13 were English, History and Media Studies.
Keegan’s advice to anyone wanting to get into the marine industry is to “dive into the learning headfirst because knowledge and experience is key in this industry. These things come with time, so be ready and willing to learn!”
“Every day comes with new challenges and that’s also a part of why I love my job. I have to be switched on all the time so that when problems do arise, I’m already on top of them”, Keegan MacNeil.
writer: Sara Carbery
photographer: Alan Stevens
Credit to www.leavingschool.co.nz