WA trio Mitchell Channer, James Clarkson and Poppy Blohm finalists in John Deere Technician of the Year Awards

Aidan SmithCountryman
Mitchell Channer of AFGRI Equipment, South Guildford, WA.
Camera IconMitchell Channer of AFGRI Equipment, South Guildford, WA. Credit: supplied/supplied

A trio of West Australian AFGRI Equipment apprentices have made the finals of the 2023 John Deere Technician of the Year Awards.

South Guildford-based parts technician Mitchell Channer has been nominated for the parts technician of the year, while James Clarkson of Gnowangerup, has been named for the service apprentice of the year, and Poppy Blohm from Narrogin for the parts apprentice of the year.

They will square off against 21 other finalists.

John Deere Australia and New Zealand managing director Luke Chandler said more than 100 award nominations from 62 John Deere dealerships across Australia and New Zealand came in for the awards.

“Technicians require a unique combination of mechanical knowledge, proficiency in digital technology and advanced problem- solving skills, and becoming a finalist in the annual awards is a testament to the hard work and dedication our technicians inject into their roles.

“Each finalist has a proven track record of helping farmers and businesses unlock greater productivity and sustainability achievements through technology, and they should be very proud of rising to the top of a very competitive field.”

Mitchell Channer of AFGRI Equipment, South Guildford, WA.
Camera IconMitchell Channer of AFGRI Equipment, South Guildford, WA. Credit: supplied/supplied

Mitchell Channer

Mr Channer is no stranger to the John Deere Technician Awards, having been named the parts apprentice of the year in 2022 while still training for his qualification.

He won a $3000 prize after scooping the award at the John Deere Technician Awards in Brisbane.

The win was a “surreal” moment for the 24-year-old apprentice from Perth, who was nominated against a competitive field of five Australian and New Zealan finalists.

“I think I went a bit red but I was really happy, I had this overwhelming feeling of joy and adrenaline coursing through me,” Mr Channer said.

He said the most rewarding part of his job was finding solutions for his customers, regardless of whether they were a hobby farmer or a large-scale mining company.

Originally working in hospitality but looking for a change, Mr Channer was planning a year of travel and work in the US nited States before COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works.

It was then that he saw the parts apprenticeship at AFGRI Equipment advertised. In October 2020, he began in the South Guildford branch and has not looked back since,is on track to finish his apprenticeship by early September, before moving into sales and parts with the company.

James Clarkson

At 33 years old, Mr Clarkson is considered a mature-aged entry, and his road to becoming a finalist has been far from ordinary.

James Clarkson of John Deere AFGRI Equipment dealership in Gnowangerup.
Camera IconJames Clarkson of John Deere AFGRI Equipment dealership in Gnowangerup. Credit: supplied/supplied

He started working in WA’s mining and construction industry after moving to Australia from Stratford, NZ, at the age of 19.

He was a fly-in, fly-out worker in the oil, gas and iron ore industries for six years, and during his down time between shifts he worked for a local farmer outside Tambellup in the Great Southern.

This role became a full-time job for three years and gave him an interest in the agricultural industry and the machinery that keeps the sector going.

“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.”

When he started a family, Mr Clarkson felt the time was right to formally further his knowledge in mechanics and machinery, and in September 2020, he started as a mature-age apprentice with the John Deere AFGRI Equipment dealership in Gnowangerup.

He fast-tracked his study by completing all 36 units in two years, instead of the usual three and winning Apprentice of the Year 2023 for Central Regional TAFE in Northam.

Poppy Blohm

Ms Blohm works as a second-year parts apprentice at Narrogin, and came into her role with limited understanding of machinery, but has proven a true natural.

Second-year John Deere parts apprentice Poppy Blohm, Narrogin, WA.
Camera IconSecond-year John Deere parts apprentice Poppy Blohm, Narrogin, WA. Credit: supplied/supplied

The most enjoyable and satisfying aspect of her work is contributing to customers’ businesses.

Originally from Perth, Ms Blohm loves that her role allows her to support rural communities and is passionate about encouraging other young people to consider a career in the agricultural industry.

“I feel fortunate to be picked,” Ms Blohm said.

“There are so many talented people throughout our group, which is part of the reason why I was surprised when they nominated me — I work with so many talented and deserving people.”

For Ms Blohm, the most rewarding part of the job is being able to help people out.

“Not every day is smooth sailing, and to be fair, I do have off days,” she said.

“For the most part, just being able to make someone’s life that little bit easier is always a win for me.”

“It really shines through when we’re in harvest or seeding and everyone’s itching to get back up and running again.”

Ms Blohm said she originally wanted to pursue a career working with livestock before arriving in Narrogin and taking on the role she has excelled in.

The Technician of the Year Awards, now in their third year, were established to acknowledge the contribution John Deere technicians.

Seven titles will be awarded across five categories including individual country awards for both the agriculture and turf service technician of the year and parts technician of the year.

One winner, from either Australia or NZ, will be named the service apprentice of the year, parts apprentice of the year and the construction and forestry service technician of the year.

Award winners will be announced at a the John Deere Technician of the Year Awards gala event on Thursday, August 24.

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