Mentoring programs are helping stem the number of WA apprentices walking away from their training, reports the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Figures from the chamber’s Apprenticeship Solutions centre showed that retention rates where mentoring programs were in place had improved by more than 20 per cent over the past 12 months, climbing from 68.4 per cent to 89.7 per cent.

Workforce development services manager Lena Constantine said mentors were having a significant impact on keeping people interested and motivated during their training.

“Having an older, more experienced person to talk to and voice any concerns with means that the conflict-resolution aspect of training is sorted before the apprentice walks away, ” Ms Constantine said. “Apprentices are a hugely important part of the business equation — they make up the talent pipeline and will provide future leaders to fulfil a company’s workforce needs. More companies are recognising that you should never stop training regardless of the economic conditions.”

Emmanuel Hondros, manager of people strategies at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, said the resources industry had bucked the trend of falling apprenticeship numbers, instead boosting numbers by 9.3 per cent in the 12 months to September 30.

He said formal and informal mentoring of first-year apprentices had become a critical part of the retention strategies being employed by resources companies and those servicing the industry.

“There are benefits for everyone when these types of programs are in place, particularly when it comes to soft skills such as relationship building, ” Mr Hondros said. “Many of the companies will pair young apprentices with older apprentices, while others will bring in high-profile mentors to attract and inspire under-represented sections of the community into trades that are critical to the sector.”

Komatsu Australia is among the companies which has invested in a high- profile mentor, signing Red Bull Racing star and five-time V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup to take 200 apprentices under his wing nationally.

The supplier and distributor of heavy earthmoving equipment to the mining and construction industry sectors has invested in the champion driver to boost camaraderie and inspire new apprentices to complete their training.

Komatsu national apprentice development manager Gavin Manning said Whincup would help apprentices learn skills that extended beyond the workplace, teaching them the importance of teamwork and effective communication.

“We want our apprentices to develop as a whole person and the apprentice-mentor program will be an important part of this process, ” he said. “We teach our apprentices technical skills, life skills and business skills, because we expect them to take up senior positions in Komatsu within six years of finishing their apprenticeships, ” Mr Manning said.

Whincup said he was happy to give the young Komatsu apprentices a leg-up at the beginning of their new careers.

“By mentoring them throughout this first stage we are helping them to develop the skills they need to go on to be the best in their fields, ” he said. “V8 Supercar racing is not a single-person sport — without the rest of my team I wouldn’t be able to succeed, so it’s great to be able to demonstrate the benefits of teamwork to the apprentices.”


© The West Australian

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