Greymouth trainee takes top honours at energy sector awards

Prue Feely Energy, News, Telco

As a career highlight, commissioning New Zealand’s largest solar farm is right up there for this year’s stand out trainee in the energy and telecommunication sectors.

Greymouth’s Ben Aynsley was the Overall Trainee of the Year winner and one of six category winners announced last night at the 2021 Connexis Industry Excellence Awards, where Infrastructure Minister Hon Grant Robertson was in attendance as guest speaker.

The Awards honour the best and brightest energy and telecommunications trainees from across the motu for their hard work, dedication and expertise.

Connexis Director Kaarin Gaukrodger says encouraging the next generation into the industry and supporting them to skill up is crucial to the sustainability of the workforce.

“We rely heavily on these industries and their work is in high demand. We need to make sure we have enough people with the proven skills and knowledge to carry out this highly technical work, often done at great heights.”

Kaarin says Connexis, which works with industry to upskill infrastructure workers for the Civil, Energy, Telco and Water sectors, is proud to add Ben to its list of top trainees.

“He embodies everything that we stand for. He’s hard working, passionate, forward thinking and has proven his commitment to lifelong learning.”

Ben has been in the industry since leaving high school 18 years ago. He started as an apprentice electrician with ElectroNet Services, who he still works for, now as a power systems technician. Ben won Advanced Trainee of the Year, for people who are working towards or have recently completed a National Certificate, Diploma or Degree at Level 5 or above, and Overall Trainee of the Year.

Ben says the power systems technician role is one you don’t learn about at school or when you’re looking at jobs in the industry.

“It’s not something that you plan to go and do. But actually it’s a pretty amazing role. An engineer will design the system and the technician is the one on the ground making sure it all works.”

Some of the highlights of Ben’s career so far have included commissioning New Zealand’s largest solar farm, and a 100 megawatt thermal generation station, both in Taranaki.

“I really like greenfield projects, where you’re involved from the turning of the sod, right through to commissioning and exporting the firsts MWs (megawatts). Those are always a highlight for me.”

Ben is also proud of the role his job plays in keeping New Zealand connected.

“You’re contributing hugely to NZ society and the country’s energy needs as part of what you do in your day-to-day role. That’s pretty satisfying.”

The annual award winners are traditionally announced at the close of Annual Connection, Connexis’ competition event to bring together the electricity supply industry. COVID has forced the cancellation of that event for the second year running, so the Excellence Awards went ahead in a new-look, online format.

Besides Robertson, guest speakers at last night’s event included Stephen Town, Chief Executive of Te Pūkenga, the new national tertiary vocational education network which unites Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and Industry Training Organisations, of which Connexis was one. There were also guest speakers from Connexis and the energy and telco industries.

This year’s full list of award winners is:

  • Overall Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Connetics): Ben Aynsley (ElectroNet Services, Greymouth)
  • Transmission Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Transpower): Debbie Kernohan (Electrix, Auckland)
  • Telecommunications Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Connexis): Navjot Kaur (CivTec, Hamilton)
  • Generation Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Q Power): Danielle Main(Genesis Energy, Lake Tekapo)
  • Distribution Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Orion): Wiremu Te Tawhero (The Lines Company, Te Kuiti)
  • Advanced Trainee of the Year: Ben Aynsley (ElectroNet Services, Greymouth)
  • Investing in Youth and Development (sponsored by Electrix): David de Klerk (Electrix, Auckland)

The awards are judged by a panel of industry experts who consider nominees’ attitude to training, commitment to career progression, whether they are team players, and how they approach challenges. The overall winner is chosen from among the five category winners. There is a sixth category for people involved in training the younger generation of workers.

Judges comments suggest the standard of this year’s nominees was high and showed an enthusiasm for professional development even despite the challenges posed by COVID.

See more on the Connexis Facebook page, and website at:

Watch the full awards ceremony here: