Meet Kai: the apprentice who fought to find himself, and his perfect fit.

Apprentice spray painter

Kai transitioned from female to male during his apprenticeship journey. When his dad first suggested looking at apprenticeships a few years ago he had worked as a car detailer, so he decided to stay within the automotive industry and now spray paints, colour matches, preps and buffs at RPM Bodyworx.

At the time of this interview 26-year-old Kai was just one day away from completing his four-and-a-half-year apprenticeship. He said, “I’m excited to get better pay and more responsibility but I’m still new, still learning, and my plan is to keep training and getting better.”

It was a poignant time to take a look back at his experience as a member of the Apprenticeship Community.

“Honestly, it’s been a challenging experience,” he shares, “I’ve worked with seven different employers in four and a half years. I’ve encountered sexism – getting to see that issue from both sides – prejudice, and aggressive behaviour, so I basically had to keep switching.

“There were many times I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. I knew I couldn’t give up though, I knew I had to finish this and get to the end and I’m glad I did.”

Eventually Kai found RPM Bodyworx and his current manager, Marc. He says, “they were able to give me the time to learn and, more importantly, took the time to understand the way I learn.”

Kai puts this more nurturing environment at RPM Bodyworx down to mutual respect, and the dynamic of a smaller shop:

“There’s just more respect, and the way my boss Marc teaches makes it easy for me to learn. My boss doesn’t mind telling me something more than once, and encourages me to ask lots of questions and be genuinely curious.”

He explains that, “this is a much smaller workshop with only four people and that means we have more time to get the training right, unlike bigger shops where there are more staff because there are so many cars coming through. That also makes it harder socially because cliques have formed.”

Kai’s grateful to have landed on his feet and with an inclusive employer and a boss who’s supportive of him being himself, as an apprentice and as a person, sharing “we’re good, we have very good conversations, he’s very easy to talk to, both because of his personality and his management style.”

When asked what advice he would give to other transgender, transitioning or LGBTQIA+ apprentices, or those considering it as a career pathway, Kai advises:

“If you feel stuck, you’re not, there are so many jobs out there that will take you on, keep moving until you find the right fit. You deserve to feel safe and respected, don’t take anything less.”

In fact Kai credits The Apprenticeship Community with supporting him through these moves saying, “they understood the challenges I was facing, and even came out to see me and support me through some of those moves in person.”

Longer term he would love to switch things up and work with wildlife or in a national park – but he has “no regrets” about his apprenticeship journey. It’s an empowered choice to follow a different passion because “what I went through helped me to find the type of place that worked for me, and I learned so much along the way. Like I went in argumentative and learned when to talk and when and how to stand up for myself.”

Congratulations on successfully signing off Kai, the Apprenticeship Community team is incredibly proud of you.

If you’re considering an apprenticeship but you have questions about any challenges you might face, come and have a chat with the Apprenticeship Community. We get it (because we’ve lived it).

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