It will help improve the skills shortages in Newcastle and the Hunter region by training 500 apprentices, says WesTrac chairman Kerry Stokes.
The facility is one of 33 WesTrac operations across Australia and the $12 million WesTrac Institute is the second dedicated training facility to be opened by the group, with the first recently expanded in Perth, Stokes said at its official opening.
“This building and everything you see in it is a mining dividend,” he said. “This is what the community always hoped to get from the mining boom – to be able to have a facility in the vicinity of the Newcastle area, an opportunity for growth and being in the right location that it doesn’t compete with the residential activities or the great lifestyle.
“So for the first time we have brought back to the region a dividend for the mining companies and their activities in the Hunter Valley.”
Stokes said there was a great store of skilled labour in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley after the closure of the BHP steel works. The resurgence of mining in the Hunter meant these skills were now back in demand.
“We wouldn’t be able to build a facility like this without a mining industry,” he said.
“We enjoy them as customers and we hope they continue to support us.”
More than 500 staff will work at the state-of-the-art facility – developed by Northbank Enterprise Hub Pty Ltd, part of the Australian Capital Equity group – which is part of the 355 hectare hub at Tomago developed over the past five years.
In 2007, WesTrac was awarded a grant from the federal government to expand its existing WesTrac Institute, with $3 million going towards the company’s recently expanded campus in Western Australia and $6 million going towards the Newcastle campus. WesTrac also receives financial support as a registered training organisation under the NSW government's approved providers list.
The WesTrac Institute, established with Caterpillar in 2000 as a focused training centre for WesTrac apprentices and customers, is one of Australia’s leading specialised training centres for the mining, construction and transport sectors.
WesTrac is the largest employer of apprentices outside of the government in Australia.
From 2013, the WesTrac Institute is expected to train about 500 apprentices and trades people in a wide variety of heavy machinery related roles. It is also expected that up to 4000 people will be trained annually in post-trade courses, covering skills from administration to business management.
The facility comprises 12 major purpose-built facilities, interconnected by a central spine, secure buildings, extensive hardstand areas and landscaping.
It includes 560,000 cubic metres of buildings spanning 700m from front to rear. It features a 12,000 square metre parts distribution centre, as well as a dedicated highway truck centre, component rebuild centre, general workshop and machine wash bay.
“WesTrac is committed to creating a new benchmark in skills training and providing excellent career opportunities for people in the Hunter region,” Stokes said.
“This facility will provide valuable services to a wide range of companies in the mining, construction, transport and infrastructure sectors.
“We believe our foundation of management come from our apprentices; 45% of our executives come from apprentices. That brings trades to a new level. We’re very proud of that.”