In his previous career, Charl Theron spent some of his days building LEGO with kindergarten kids.

Nowadays, he’s still building – albeit things that are a little bigger!

At age 30, Charl decided to have a career change and transition from being a kindergarten teacher to a mechanical engineer. 

“I’ve always liked pulling stuff apart and seeing how things work, then trying to put them back together in a way that they still work,” says Charl. “I thought I would be an oddity enrolling in TAFE as a mature-aged student, but it wasn’t the case at all. Most of the other apprentices were mature-aged.”

After finishing high school in South Africa, Charl spent several years travelling the globe teaching English as a second language.

While living in China, he met an Aussie girl and decided to move Down Under with her.

Charl had been teaching for nine years when he decided teaching didn’t inspire him anymore and it was time for fresh start.

“I actually wanted to be an electrician, but then I got the call for an interview at this company that I’m now working with that builds CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines,” says Charl. “As soon as I walked into the factory I thought, ‘this feels right, this is what I want to do’.”

Charl began Chisholm’s Certificate III in Engineering (Mechanical Trade) apprenticeship with ANCA, a designer and manufacturer of computer numerical controlled precision-grinding machines.

Charl loved the Chisholm learning experience.

“We got to work with a lot of different types of machines, which was really interesting,” he says. “There was some really big, heavy machinery we got to work on and create our own parts. We also created our own tools, which became useful working in the trade.”

Charl says the teaching style at Chisholm really suited him. He did so well, he was nominated as Apprentice of the Year at the Chisholm Education Awards.

“A lot of the learning was self-learning,” he says. “The information is there and the teachers are there more to guide you through the work. It really encourages the student to problem-solve and find solutions to their own problems. There’s also a lot of peer learning, which was really great and interactive.”

Being able to work independently is extremely important in Charl’s job. 

“You get to work and are told which machine bay you’re working on, find the job sheets which guide you along the building route of how to assemble the machine, then you get on with it,” says Charl. “The skills I learnt at Chisholm are very much applicable to the work that we do. It translated really well for me.”

When Charl isn’t at work, he enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and teaching it voluntarily to children, surfing and planning his next adventure.

His dream is to combine his passion for machine build with travel.

“The company I work for is a global company and when I got the job they said they were looking for people who are willing to travel on a semi-permanent basis,” says Charl. “Being able to travel is my goal; always has been and always will be.”