6 March 2024

Illawarra apprentices to impress industry giants from day dot after completing specialised TAFE course

| Keeli Royle
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Apprentices Euan Heffernan, Amina Nemr and Bradley Del Rio now all have a head start when hitting the worksite. Photos: Keeli Royle.

The future of Illawarra’s industry workforce is getting a head start with some of the biggest industry leaders after completing a specialised program to help them hit the ground running from the time they arrive on site.

More than 60 first-year apprentices and cadets completed the eight-week crash course at TAFE Wollongong to kick off their careers and equip them with the skills and requirements to start their journey in pursuing a trade.

Head teacher of mechanical fitting and machining Matthew McGlashan said the course familiarised students across a range of areas, which would be vital for their future careers, with a particular focus on safety.

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“It’s like a work-readiness program so when they get to the site they can identify any hazards, any issues, and can flag it there,” he said. “During this program, they do first aid, confined spaces, working at heights as well, and that’s nationally recognised training.

“They develop a lot of hand skills during this program and make a lot of things – it covers off on electrical, mechanical and a little bit of fabrication.”

The all-round nature of the program allowed students such as Amina Nemr to confirm their interest in a specific trade before pursuing it for the following four years.

TAFE course graduates with their projects

Course graduates show off their new skills with projects and portfolios.

“I love hands-on – I’ve always wanted to work hands-on, never been the kind to sit at an office, so it was a great opportunity to have this offered,” Amina said. “I kind of went in and didn’t know what to expect and I loved it.

“I’ve learned so many skills I never thought I would. From filing to using machinery, to hacksawing, all different types of skills as well as getting the opportunity to see different sorts of trades, such as boilermaking and electrical.”

Student Bradley Del Rio said the broadened knowledge from a range of areas in the industry also helped to better understand the importance of each role.

“It’s good also that you get an idea of what all the other trades do and how they work hand-in-hand, because not everyone would know what a boilermaker does, or fitter or machinist – so you understand what they do for their trades and how technical some really are,” he said.

“An electrician doesn’t just go and plug things in, there’s a lot that goes into it, so there’s a lot of misconception sometimes about what trades do.”

Fellow apprentice Euan Heffernan said the course helped provide additional confidence on site and reduce the risk of errors that could come with learning completely on the job.

“I feel like it’s very important as well because with our trades working for BlueScope or in the mines, you’re working around very dangerous equipment and machinery so you have to have a bit of confidence in what you’re doing, otherwise if you make a mistake you can put yourself at risk and you can put others at risk as well,” Euan said.

Two people looking at a portfolio

The course is created to cater to local industry workplaces such as BlueScope.

Bradley added: “I think having that confidence and not having to think about things too deeply out on site means you can focus on other things. And not having to worry about, ‘Am I doing this right?’ or ‘Do I know how to do this?”’

The course is designed in partnership with industry giants such as BlueScope, Snowy Hydro and local mining companies to ensure students are equipped to work specifically in their organisations.

“We work pretty closely with the employers and we use a lot of their documentation as well, so when they get there they know what BlueScope’s risk assessment looks like, they know how to fill out a Take 5, it’s really important, Mr McGlashan said.

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“This course is totally tailored to them, so whatever their needs are, we work on it every year and if we need to find something else to meet their needs, we do.

“For example, if they identify issues in the workplace around hand injuries, we’ll focus more on that so they are ready to reduce those accidents or injuries on site.”

This also helps ensure apprentices make strong connections and quality workers continue to bolster the local industry.

“I feel like it’s really good for careers, especially for young people as well,” Euan said. “Apprenticeships with places like BlueScope, it does give them a long-lasting career and provides them with skills that they’re just going to take forward.”

To find out about the courses on offer, visit the TAFE NSW website.

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