Takanini Engineering - A proactive approach to learning

Matt Cross Takanini Engineering cropped

20 January 2021

Takanini Engineering (TE) is a structural sheet metal engineering business based in Auckland, and for the last 30 years has been manufacturing aluminium and steel building products. One of TE’s customers is Countdown; designing, building and installing heavy steel frames for signage and lighting for its supermarkets.

Managing director Matt Cross bought the business last year having worked extensively in other infrastructure businesses. He says the business may have lacked some robust systems but he saw it had the right people. “The company had all the hallmarks of growth opportunities like repeat customers and a strong, capable and unflappable team who want to learn. Everyone is committed to growing their skills and helping them achieve this is important to me,” he says.

This proactive and positive approach to learning has seen TE now employing three apprentices amongst its 17 staff, a number that has swelled from only one learner in February 2020.

“Everyone thinks apprenticeships are for the young fellas, but there are benefits for the more experienced people. Rachel is a great example – she is in her 30s and kept busy balancing being a mum to three boys as well as working full time and doing her apprenticeship. And then we have Thomas and Brad who are younger who are also undertaking Competenz fabrication apprenticeships,” he says. 

Matt says the recent government Apprenticeship Boost scheme definitely got him thinking about taking on more people. “While Covid flattened off the company’s growth this year due to cancelled or deferred contracts, we decided to invest in more apprentices. Our focus at TE is growing people so the government’s financial support was a factor in that decision."

“While you can train people, you can’t train attitudes and we have a team of people with great attitudes. It’s easy to see who arrives to work early and who consistently works hard. The challenge for apprentices is to balance their workload with learning opportunities so I make sure they have one day every month to do their study at work and not at home. It’s a good opportunity to tap into the knowledge of staff and ask colleagues questions.” 

Competenz account manager Alan Bates visits the apprentices every three months and has created a ‘roadmap’ for each, so the team can support their learning. “The apprentices at TE are really getting into their apprenticeships, I look forward to following them through as they learn new skills to help them in the future, while working towards their qualifications,” he says.

Creating leaders is also a focus at TE, with Matt aiming to grow leadership skills internally, with many of the skills being developed through apprenticeship programmes. He is also a firm advocate for on-the-job learning and encourages his staff to consider upskilling. “If any of the team want to develop themselves further, I say ‘let’s talk’. I want them to feel that they are in control of their own destinies, and I fully support that sort of improvement.”