Two Melbourne Isuzu truck dealerships have teamed up to establish their own training academy, with a group of 12 apprentices already over halfway through their first year.
The Westar and Patterson Cheney Apprentice Academy was launched in a bid to help curb the rate of apprenticeship dropouts and enhance skills retention.
Westar and Patterson Cheney Truck Group training coordinator Peter Sherry said the response to the academy has been resoundingly positive, with over 30 applications received for the first 12 apprenticeships positions.
Under the Academy program, apprentices partake in a range of paid work and training, and attend TAFE together every two months.
Sherry said the aim was to build a strong camaraderie among the participants to help them feel more committed to finishing their apprenticeships.
According to recent findings by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), one third of all first-year apprentices and trainees don’t complete their training.
In its Completion and Attrition Rates for Apprentices and Trainees 2021 report, released on August 11, the NCVER revealed that less than half of the apprenticeships begun in Australia in 2017 had been completed.
According to Sherry, the combined dealership initiative aims to take the bull by the horns to encourage young people to consider a career as a truck mechanic. The group works with training and government organisations to reach out to young people who might be interested.
“We actually put some of them into our dealership one or two days a week so they can see whether they like it before they commit,” he said.
Through the Apprenticeship Academy, an apprentice can become a qualified heavy commercial vehicle technician or an auto electrician, with training in all areas of the service and pre-delivery areas.
During the four-year program, apprentices complete a Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology (AUR31120) or Certificate III in Automotive Electrical Technology (AUR30320) through the Kangan Institute at the Automotive Centre of Excellence in Melbourne’s Docklands.
The apprentices also have the opportunity to obtain a forklift licence, first aid qualifications, a truck licence, Certificate II Automotive Air Conditioning and Arctic A/C refrigerant handling licence.
To sweeten the deal, everyone accepted into the Patterson Cheney Apprenticeship Academy is also given a starter toolkit worth $4000.
“We place the apprentices in our three dealerships,” Sherry said. “We have five participants in Dandenong, six at Westar in Derrimut and two in Campbellfield, which is now expanding and doubling its workshop size.”
The first intake in the Patterson Cheney Apprenticeship Academy range in age from 16 to late-20s and include a mix of male and female apprentices.
As part of their training this year, the group visited the Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) head office to watch the final of the Isuzu National Technical Skills Training Competition to get an idea of the training opportunities for Australian truck mechanics.
“The opportunity came for them to observe the competition, to see what goes and obviously we hope they’d be involved with it one day,” Sherry said.
“It’s also important for them to see the level of professionalism of the IAL guys so they can replicate that in the dealerships.
“It’s not just bringing dirty old trucks into workshops and getting oil changed and getting themselves dirty as well. There’s quite a lot of nous that goes into diagnosing. Hopefully they can take some hints back to the workshop.”
Patterson Cheney is planning another intake of 12 to the Apprenticeship Academy next year, and possibly even a mid-year intake.