September 1st, 2015
Getting the best from an investment in an apprenticeship
If you’re a small firm wanting to train an apprentice and can’t justify a dedicated human resources or training team, take heart. According to Darren Davis, Operations Manager at award-winning plastics manufacturer RX Plastics in Ashburton, when you’re building an apprentice’s skills, ‘there’s no substitute for managers and supervisors getting stuck in and taking responsibility’.
“Training an apprentice is a big investment for a business, and managers need to take that investment seriously by putting in the time,” says Darren. “It can take a lot of time to train someone well – but it’s worth it.”
Competenz plastics account manager John McGregor supports this view. “RX Plastics has a handful of really passionate guys. They’re skilled and knowledgeable and they make their training work for their apprentices and their business.”
Setting clear expectations with apprentices is important too, says Darren.
“We tell our apprentices that we’ll invest in them to build their skills, and support them along the way. But it’s up to them to make the most of their learning.”
This support at RX Plastics takes many forms. The company gives apprentices time to complete their book work. Apprentices’ pay rises as they complete their unit standards, with the final increase being ‘pretty significant’. The company holds informal graduations where successful apprentices receive their National Certificates over a company morning tea.
Regular site visits and reports from Competenz play a big part too. “John keeps us on our toes.”
Losing trained plastics technicians to the ‘big cities’ is always a risk. The company manages this risk by giving apprentices opportunities to continue to build their careers internally. Apprentices can continue their plastics training to level 5. Training in business skills like health and safety, competitive manufacturing and management rounds out employees’ technical skills and makes them more useful to the whole business.
There are also opportunities to advance internally: the company’s Production Manager holds a level 5 plastics certificate and started with the company as a student ‘cleaning up the factory after school.’
RX Plastics has won several industry awards for its work, including Plastics Training Company of the Year 2014.