A Gnowangerup apprentice has been nominated for the John Deere Technician Award, which will be held in Brisbane later this month. AFGRI Gnowangerup’s James Clarkson will fly to Brisbane on August 22 to showcase his skills for the service apprentice of the year award. At 33 years old, Mr Clarkson is considered a mature-aged entry, and his road to becoming a finalist has been far from ordinary. At age 19, Clarkson began working fly-in, fly-out in the iron ore industry and between swings, he worked for a farmer near his home town of Tambellup. “I worked for a farmer and helped him out with machinery and other farmhand duties during my time off from the mines,” he said. That was where he learned the fundamentals of heavy machinery upkeep and gained a passion for the industry. Keen to start a family with his partner, he sourced work in Gnowangerup. “We were starting a family so I wanted to be at home more,” he said. “I learnt about farming machinery during my FIFO gig, so I got an apprenticeship at AFGRI.” Mr Clarkson started his apprenticeship in 2020 and excelled at Moora TAFE, finishing all 36 units in two years, instead of the usual three, and was named the school’s 2023 apprentice of the year. “I wanted to limit the amount of time from my family as much as possible, so I thought if I studied hard I could fast-track my studies,” he said. Mr Clarkson’s supervisor Matt Bradford said “his maturity, hard-working attitude and willingness to learn” had been key to his successes. “Most other TAFE students are 18 or 19, so when they were going out after class and to the pub, James was studying,” Mr Bradford said. “He has strong ability in machinery servicing and we have been offloading more technical troubleshooting tasks to him so he can hone his skills even further.” At the awards, 21 nominees will be tested on their ability to perform hands-on tasks and troubleshoot technical issues before winners are named in each category. Now in the final year of his apprenticeship, Mr Clarkson said he was thrilled to be nominated and excited to “challenge his skills against others in his field”. Winners will be announced at the gala event on August 24.