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Thomas & Coffey finds solution in apprentices

The contract maintenance organisation has been working with the local MEGT Australian Apprenticeships Centre to attract more local young people to their businesses in NSW and Queensland.

The company, based in Unanderra NSW, has to compete for labour not only with other local businesses but also with the lure of the big cities.

Ben is one of several apprentices Daniel Dal Bon, Services Human Resources Manager for Thomas & Coffey Wollongong branch is putting through this year. Ben has commenced a part-time apprenticeship with the Australian Technical College — Illawarra.

“I’m 17 now,” said Ben Dunster. “I’m doing a fitting and machining engineering and mechanical apprenticeship as well as working here in the machine shop every Thursday and Friday.

“At the same time, I’m doing my HSC every Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday is a day at school.

“I really like to be able to see what I did during the day and I like working with my hands. It makes me feel good.”

Daniel feels he understands what Ben is experiencing as he himself started as an apprentice boilermaker. He is now the Services Human Resources Manager for Thomas and Coffey.

“I’ve learned that a lot of employers can add value to their business with apprentices,” said Daniel. “It should be a fundamental part of their business strategy if they want to survive for the long term. They need young people coming through the ranks.

“The key to successfully bringing a person through their apprenticeship is the quality of mentoring. They have to be put with a good role model. Our philosophy is that we want to build good people, not just good tradespeople. We talk to them about our core values as well as the purpose behind those values.

“It is important to give people feedback. They want to know how they are going and that’s the way you can help them be the best they can be.

“It is also important to have good support. Tara from the local MEGT Australian Apprenticeships Centre knows about our business. It means we can troubleshoot with her and rely on her to get back to us with accurate information on government incentives. The key benefit is that when we need new apprentices, Tara comes along and outlines what their commitment is. She interacts well with the apprentices and reinforces with them that they are entering into a government contract; a commitment. She helps them fill out the paperwork the right way and makes it easier for me.

“In 2006 Tara helped us set up training in Certificate IV Frontline Management for 65 of our leading hands and supervisors all over NSW and Queensland on an existing worker traineeship program. She set everything up and provided good support and prompt information.”

Thomas & Coffey are involved in all aspects of heavy industry from maintenance, engineering and construction. They live by their core values, one of which is ‘We do what we say and are always honest and fair.’

For more information about Australian Apprenticeships call 13 MEGT.

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