Mackay crafts solution to skills shortage

ONE Mackay group has shaped a long-term solution to the skills shortage in the Bowen Basin region with a program that has already placed 83 fitter and turner, boilermaker and diesel fitting apprentices.
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Longwall Associates shearer undergoing overhaul in Mackay workshop

Angie Tomlinson

The Mackay Area Industry Network (MAIN) Cooperative set up the MAIN Care program two-and-a-half years ago to assist its member companies with the recruitment, retention and effective training and management of apprentices, trainees and tradespeople.

The not-for-profit cooperative boasts 60 members, including Longwall Associates, G&S Engineering, Anderson Industries, P&H Minepro, All Metal Solutions, Austchrome, ABC Heavy Engineering, Westhill Engineering, Group Engineering and Macs Engineering.

The program also has major positive spin-offs for mines in the area by providing a ready pool of potential trades apprentices and trainees that would not otherwise be available.

“Because we are contributing significantly to the management of successful apprenticeships and the recruiting into the industry, we are delivering a long-term benefit across the sector. Major mines will be a beneficiary of this with a better trained workforce and we would like them to recognise this with some support for this organisation,” MAIN general manager Margaret Cameron said.

The program includes pre-apprenticeship training courses, workplace skills development and apprentice and trainee support and management.

Cameron said the primary value of the program was that employers hand over much of the administrative and non-productive elements of apprenticeships, enabling companies to take on more apprentices and focus on the productivity of their employees.

The MAIN program aimed to address concerns employers had with various group training schemes – including organisation-specific training and placing the apprentice within the company for training, whilst taking the administrative burden away from the company, Cameron said.

MAIN has secured government funding for its prevocational training, which includes a 10-week course. Each course is preceded by a survey to employers to ascertain the skills sets they require.

MAIN also visits schools and has built a strong working relationship with the Department of Employment and Training, local secondary schools and member companies.

The cooperative has also looked at training unqualified but partially skilled and experienced workers who are currently employed. MAIN is currently piloting a program through Central Queensland TAFE to accelerate such workers through training to gain full trade recognition.

“The benefits of this project are providing better skilled and better qualified workers who can then be more effectively utilised in the workplace. This will include being in a position to supervise apprentices, therefore potentially increasing the capacity for some employers to increase the numbers of apprentices,” MAIN said.

All MAIN training is to Australian Quality Training Framework standards.

Cameron said she hoped that MAIN’s approach would provide a model for the future across sectors and regions.

“Although we do not have a crystal ball, the relationships built over the past two-and-a-half years indicate there is a real need to address the lack of pathways between education and industry through facilitating opportunities for new avenues of communication.”