MINING and construction company Macmahon has become the first employer in Western Australia to adopt a new scheme designed to fast-track experienced workers through apprenticeships.
Its use of the National Apprenticeship Program is one of several initiatives taken by Macmahon to support the rapid expansion of its workforce.
Managing director Nick Bowen said the company had employed 2,500 people in the past 11 months, taking its workforce to 4,800.
This was partly to cover staff turnover but also reflected a big lift in overall employment from 3,500 people in 2010, he said.
In addition, the group has between 1,000 and 1,500 contractors on its projects, which currently include mine sites in the Pilbara and the Great Eastern Highway-Roe Hwy interchange.
It has employed 24 NAP apprentices in WA, and has a further 21 under the scheme in Queensland, where it is one of several employers using the scheme.
In total, the company has 85 regular apprentices, with 60 located in WA.
Macmahon aims to have 200 adult apprentices employed under the scheme, which recognises prior learning and experience to speed-up the apprenticeship process.
Participants are assessed on their competency, not on a compulsory time period like traditional apprenticeships, and can therefore complete their training within 18 months or less, instead of the traditional four years.
To apply for NAP apprenticeships, candidates must have a minimum of four years’ relevant experience and 40 per cent of the accredited skills in their desired trade.
Macmahon apprentice coordinator Jason Cullen said the company could see that NAP would fit into its system and help it get more tradespeople into the industry in a short period of time with the required skills set.
“We’ll be able to put those people, in most cases, straight onto the mine site; where, with a standard four-year school-leaver apprentice, we would never do that,” Mr Cullen said.
NAP operations manager Heather Russell said a key feature of the program was that host employers could specify the skill sets and choose 20 per cent of the college electives of the applicants they were interested in.
“This enables host employers to be extremely precise about the type of person they’re appointing,” Ms Russell said.
Federal Skills and Jobs Minister Chris Evans launched NAP in 2011 in response to the 2010 National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce report, which predicted a shortage of 36,000 tradespeople by 2015.
Not-for-profit training organisation East Coast Apprenticeships was appointed to
Ms Russell said the program was best suited to ex-defence personnel, tradesmen with unrecognised overseas qualifications, and applicants with trade qualifications closely aligned to their desired apprenticeships.
NAP apprenticeships complement Macmahon’s selection of training and recruitment programs.
Macmahon structures its apprenticeship program so that apprentices spend time at a variety of Macmahon workshops and sites in WA and Queensland, in order to broaden the experience.
According to Macmahon, this has resulted in a 90 per cent success rate in its apprentices finding work upon completion of their courses.
Speaking at a site tour this month Mr Bowen said the company planned to build a new induction and training facility at its Perth Airport premises.
The facility will train inexperienced applicants as operators within six to eight weeks, with the potential to train up to 100 operators each year.
This shortened training period will partly be achieved by the use of mining vehicle simulators purchased from Osborne Park based firm Immersive Technologies.
Macmahon also has an indigenous employment and training program, which recruits 10 per cent of its national apprenticeships.
Five per cent of Macmahon’s workforce has come from this program, currently 250 employees, and Mr Bowen said the company aimed to grow this to 10 per cent within four years.
In 2010, Macmahon signed the Australian Employment Covenant signalling its commitment to create 500 new jobs for indigenous people over five years.
To fulfil that commitment it launched a new program called ROCKSTAR, Real Opportunities and Careers – Kick Starting Today’s Aboriginal Role models – in February, which expands upon its current indigenous apprenticeship offerings by creating more apprenticeship positions and a mentoring and support system.
This project receives funding of $4.4 million over two years from the federal government’s Indigenous Employment Program.
The number of graduate engineers being employed at Macmahon is also growing; the company currently employs 450 engineers.
This year it hired 44 engineer graduates, a 200 per cent increase on its average of 15 engineering graduates per annum.
Macmahon communications manager Stuart McClagen said the majority of these engineers had been sourced from the company’s vacation work placement program, which employed civil, mining and mechanical engineering students during the winter and summer university vacation periods, and its graduate program, a two- to three-year technical development course run in conjunction with Engineering Education Australia focusing on similar engineering fields to its vacation program.
Macmahon has also increased its workforce through international 457 work visas; up to 80 engineers and tradespeople have been sourced from Ireland, Spain, the Philippines and Indonesia.