Upskilling the force

Martyn Fraser and Jordan Hite are among the newly appointed apprentices at McCain Foods in Smithton.

Employment. Since July last year, McCain Foods has offered four new apprenticeships to new and existing employees at the Smithton plant.

This forms part of its ongoing work towards ensuring the local community has access to the tradespeople required for business operations.

As the number of apprenticeships continues to fall across Australia, the demand for skilled tradespeople is growing, especially in regional areas.

A report released in March by the National Care for Vocational Education Research, found that the number of people in training had fallen 5.6 per cent in the year to September 2017, as part of an ongoing trend.

With two apprentices having worked in varied positions within McCain’s Smithton plant and two being new employees to the company, their newly appointed roles will provide an opportunity to utilise their diverse experience to benefit the plant. The apprenticeships are the result of the restructure of the boiler refrigeration labour force, and the need to reward individual employees and reduce turnover.

Plant manager, Rodney McLaren says this new initiative is important in ensuring McCain’s ongoing operations into the future, and in supporting the availability of tradespeople within the community.

“We’re excited to have the capacity and capability to support our employees in enhancing their skills. The opportunity to upskill in rural communities can be limited, so we are happy to be able to have the available resources to give new and existing employees the chance to stay and grow within the Smithton area,” Mr McLaren said.

“By deploying these electrical and mechanical apprenticeships, we can capitalise on employees’ prior experience and give them the opportunity to increase their value.

“The process of upskilling to the mechanical trades began in 2015 with one adult apprentice and it’s been very successful since then. As the business need for upskilling has increased, so has the opportunity to expand our apprenticeship program”.

McCain plans to continue providing upskilling opportunities to current employees in the future, as new investments in the plant, new developments in technology and changing formats of business processes take effect.

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