October 01st, 2015
Getting the best from a plastics apprenticeship
If you’re a company, small or large, that wants to train an apprentice but 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, 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 structure their training to give their apprentices variety and responsibility.”
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 at 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 keep building their careers.
Apprentices can continue their plastics training at 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 business.
There are also opportunities to advance internally: the company’s Production Manager, who holds a level 5 plastics certificate, started as a student ‘cleaning up the factory after school’.
RX Plastics has won many industry awards, including Plastics Training Company of the Year 2014.
Photo: Operations Manager Darren Davis with apprentices Sam Johnstone and Aaron Soper