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Leussink Engineering increases apprentice uptake in Illawarra

In what ranks as a complete antithesis to the generally gloomy forecast for manufacturing in the NSW industrial region of Illawarra, engineering firm Leussink Engineering has announced it is increasing its 2012 uptake of apprentices.

The firm has decided to increase the number of apprentice intakes not only to build its strength and knowledge, but also to advance its prospects for business growth nationally. It considers that training its own engineers will open greater market opportunities in mining, rail, construction, shipbuilding, energy, materials handling, transport and general manufacturing.

Leussink has been taking on and training up apprentices for 28 years. This has resulted in the formation of a highly technical in-house team, which the company says ‘open the door’ for import replacement deals with large companies who need and demand fast turnaround on time-critical jobs and component emergencies.

Company director, Jason Leussink said the firm’s investment in recruiting and training up apprentices has helped insulate the business from market volatilities and see it expand into new markets as a leading provider to the Australian industrial market.

“We are always bringing through a group of fresh youngsters that are learning new manual skills from ground level before moving onto CNC training,” Leussink said.

This year, the firm has up it quota taking on six apprentices. Leussink said that in a workforce of 45 employees, six new apprentices represents a very high percentage.

The firm usually has about eight apprentices on the production floor at the same time. As of 2012 it will have 14. In 1995, the company appointed a dedicated trainer for its apprentices.

“His supervision range is very high because our boys progress quite rapidly and training is intense because most of our equipment is CNC rather than manual,” Leussink said.

“We do take on tradespeople when we can find, but they are few and far between and their skills are often such that they cannot hit the ground running. Our in-house apprentices most often slot in much more comfortably to new technical tasks.”
Market distinction

The Leussink Engineering business is reportedly unique in the market as it is focused on small batch quantities – often as small as a single item for one order. Where the company claims to have a market distinction is in skilfull and profitable production of once-off single items on CNC technology normally used for mass production.

Attention to scheduling and inventory combined with highly trained apprentices ensures these cost effective tiny runs work for its clients.

“With a plethora of highly trained CNC-savvy young staff on the production floor, we have that solid background to produce these once-off items for a good price and quality because we do it all the time and are very good at it,” Leussink said.

Over the last five years, the company has refined its recruitment processes. It reports to have taken on about 80-100 applicants per intake.

“After the first screening we do Morrisby testing to gauge each individual’s capabilities and determine whether the applicant’s will be attuned enough to get through the trade,” Leussink said.

“We’re becoming more critical as to where our applicants may envisage being a few years down the track; as a tradesperson at Leussink Engineering or are they the kind that will want to go to university further down the track rather than remain with us.”

Leussink purports to retain about 90 per of its trained apprentices. “[O]ur employee age profile is very young. We see these as very strong signs for not just our company but Australian industry in general,” he said.

“Now, as we invest in newer and more sophisticated CNC machinery, we are not only looking to hire new people externally to operate these; we are moving our in-house trained personnel up the ladder to up-skill them while opening doors to even more apprentices to come through the system.”

[Image: Examples of components made by Leussink Engineering apprentices.]

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