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Tomago Aluminium's Apprenticeship Program

Tomago Aluminium manage a four year apprenticeship program to 7 lucky students each year, but what most people don’t know is just how difficult it is to get one of those apprenticeships and how lucky a candidate is to be accepted into the company’s apprenticeship program.

Apprentice Training Supervisor, Greg Wall, recently explained how the program works.

“We have apprenticeships for Mechanical, Electrical and Plant Mechanic trades,” Greg said, “and we go through a fairly rigorous process to choose the right people.

“For those seven positions we generally average about 300 applicants and the standard of candidates is very high.

“We advertise the positions in June and those that make it past that point are invited in for aptitude testing and then we have another culling process. After that we conduct interviews and from there we choose our final seven.”

The new employees start their four-year apprenticeships at the beginning of the year and it is an accelerated learning curve.

Their first year is spent in the Apprentice Training Workshop and for the first three months they learn how to use basic tools, manual and power tools, before breaking into their individual skill groups for six weeks for basic machining and basic electrical knowledge.

Another six-week block has them learning more tool skills – oxy and acetylene welding, brazing, cutting, electric arc and MIG skills. Then they go back into their skills groups for a six-week block with electrical apprentices learning the basics of electric motors, motor controls and the like and mechanical apprentices learning power transmission basics including bearing principles, drives and lubrication.

“By the middle of their first year they are ready to take on some small plant jobs in the workshop before they start ramping-up for the end of the year. Basic hydraulics and pneumatics maintenance, reading and understanding schematics and plans, that kind of thing.”  

While all that is going on, the apprentices have one day each week at TAFE.

From the start of their second year the apprentices get out of the workshop to go on-site, rotating through various locations for between three and nine months. By the time they are fully qualified tradespeople they know the workings of the entire site.  

Final-year apprentices, if they have met certain training criteria, can apply for one day off each week to do additional studies within their field of expertise, the company meeting training and text book costs.  

At the end of four years the program has rolled-out a select group of highly skilled and extremely well-qualified tradespeople and, not surprisingly, the company is happy to keep them in-house.

“Our apprentice retention rate is around 60 per cent,” says Greg, “and of those that do leave, 99 per cent of the time they have good jobs to go to.”

The best part for Greg? “We’re a pretty close bunch and I get to train some really talented people and that’s something I really enjoy.  

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