Automotive apprentice wins inaugural disability achievement award

Automotive apprentice wins inaugural disability achievement award

A local 18-year-old apprentice with a passion for all things cars has become the first winner of the Apprenticeship Employment Network’s Disability Achievement Award.

Massimo Zurzolo, who is deaf and wears cochlear implants, has been recognised for his commitment to success in the automotive industry.

“I feel that this award will provide more opportunities [for people with a disability] and is an acknowledgement that people with a disability can do anything,” he said.

Mr Zurzolo is enrolled at the Kangan Institute in Docklands and took on extra units of study when his workplace closed during the COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne. He saw this time as an opportunity to upskill and is now employed in a mentored apprenticeship program with BMW Group Australia and NextGen Jobs.

While Mr Zurzolo did not need to use the extra supports Kangan Institute offers students with disability, he praised the training for being flexible and tailored to him.

“My teacher Michael has been open and willing to adapt his training by understanding that lip reading is important, with no hands over his mouth and with clear speech,” he said.

COVID-19 restrictions were isolating for most students studying online. But for Mr Zurzolo, they also presented practical challenges related to his deafness. Lack of subtitles and limited scope to lip read made accessing information difficult.

Mr Zurzolo’s teachers ultimately recognised his persistence through tough circumstances to complete all units of study.

“Massimo’s passion for cars, combined with a personal determination and resilience has enabled him to overcome obstacles to build a future in doing what he loves,” Kangan Institute’s chief executive Sally Curtain said.

The Disability Achievement Award win is the latest in a string of accolades for Mr Zurzolo. He was recognised in 2021 as a finalist for the Victorian School-based Apprentice and Trainee of the Year and awarded Kangan Institute’s 2020 Apprentice of the Year for Automotive – School Based.

He hopes that his story will inspire other people living with disability to pursue their dream careers and know their rights in the workplace, at school and in society at large.

“For anyone considering an apprenticeship, make sure that the right support network is in place to assist you with your disability,” he said. “I believe in being honest and comfortable in discussing my needs at work and school.”

Mr Zurzolo plans to take his interest in car mechanics, design and engineering to a future in the electric car industry.

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