Careers & Training

Apprentices on the right path to success

In an effort to attract more young diesel mechanics into the industry, Simon National Carriers has launched a Year 12 Career Pathways Program.

Assistant national fleet manager at Simon’s, Scott Horwood, initiated the program with St Peter Claver College in Ipswich, with three apprentices from the school now in their second year at the company’s Brisbane warehouse, completing their Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanics. And there are plans in place to replicate the program with other states too, with a Melbourne school eager to come on board.

“There is a big gap with people wanting to come in and work in the transport industry, particularly to become apprentices and tradesmen, so I thought we should reach out to local schools in the community to try and find a solution,” said Horwood.

“When I was younger, the market was flooded with kids that wanted to be apprentices, now it’s the total opposite. They either don’t want to be apprentices, or they do and are unaware of the opportunities out there. Back then, you could leave school and get an apprenticeship, but now it’s frowned upon not to finish Year 12.”

Following the success of the program in Brisbane, Simon’s plans to expand it into other states.

Through the Pathways Program, Year 12 students can come into the business and begin their apprenticeship while completing high school. The school-based apprenticeship involves one day a week in the workshop, with the potential to go full time on school holidays. 

As apprentices complete their training, it will open the door for more new apprentices to come through the business. 

“As well as apprentices, we also have work experience opportunities too. We’ve had a work experience student named Mitch work with us in 2021 and he has aspirations to become an apprentice. We have a fourth year apprentice who is almost fully qualified, and then Mitch will be able to come in and do his apprenticeship too,” added Horwood, who knows firsthand the opportunities available at Simon’s.

Now 35, Horwood came into the business as a trade’s assistant and worked his way up, completing his heavy vehicle mechanic apprenticeship and working his way into a management role. 

“Identifying the lack of young people coming into the industry and establishing a relationship with a local school was the first step, now we’re planning to work with other schools too,” said Horwood.

National training and development co-ordinator at Simon’s, Nicole Burke, is leading the charge to expand and replicate the program in other states, as well as introduce further programs and training opportunities to attract more people into the business – and the industry. 

“There are shortages in every trade. When you have people who don’t want to train and just want to do their own work, you’re going to have a shortage. Scott reached out to a local school here to see if we could take on some apprentices; so I thought, let’s try and get this across all states, not just Brisbane. The Year 12 Career Pathways Program was a combination of everybody wanting to do the same thing and contribute. Everybody had a different piece of the puzzle, we’ve put it all together and this is where we’re at,” Burke said.

Simon’s now has its sights firmly set on Melbourne. “We’ve been trying to get some school-based apprentices through our Melbourne workshop but it’s been particularly hard there with Covid restrictions and school closures. A formal program is underway in Brisbane, and it will hopefully be underway in Melbourne soon too,” said Burke.

“The current apprentices are loving it – you can see it in their faces. They are thrilled with the opportunity they’ve been given and how supportive Simon’s has been in taking them on board and giving them this experience.”

At the Brisbane workshop, there are also currently four work experience students, taken on from as early as Year 9. “Once they get in, if we can keep them through to Year 12, then they can do the Year 12 school-based apprenticeship,” Burke added. 

As well as expanding into other states, Burke says the Year 12 Career Pathways Program will also be expanded to incorporate allocator and other admin roles.

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