One of Perth’s largest employers of apprentices is making major inroads towards gender diversity.
In 2022, Komatsu’s Welshpool branch apprentice intake comprised 47% females, more than twice the national average of 17.8%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Komatsu National RTO and Technical Capability Manager Matt Tosolini says the company is proud to have almost a 50:50 gender split among its apprentices.
“Komatsu is really focused on our gender diversity. We want to see women get into non-traditional trades and support them through to completion and into industry,” he says.
“We have seen a lot more women come into our business and the best bit of feedback that I’ve had from one of our recent apprentices is that ‘I just don’t get treated any differently’.
“To talk to a workshop culture, where women feel comfortable and feel that they’re not seen as any different and they can get in and do the job, is fantastic.”
Apprentice Fitter Machinist Abby Falconer says she is enjoying her apprenticeship and working at Komatsu.
“My experience has been great – all the people are great and the work’s good. And everyone’s really encouraging you to do your best and helping you a lot along the way. I think more women coming into the industry and more diversity is really good,” she says.
She feels the apprenticeship is enabling her to try something new and put her on the path for a fulfilling career.
“I wanted to try something new that I’ve never done before, and I wanted to get more experiences and find a life-long career. I’m hoping that this training will lead to a qualification, then I’ll be working independently and teaching other apprentices as they come through the company,” Falconer says.
Apprentices integral to the business
Komatsu’s Apprenticeship Development System was founded in 2009 in New South Wales. By 2012, it had spread nationally, and then internationally to New Zealand in 2017.
The apprenticeship program focuses on developing apprentices in traditional trades, along with progressing their soft skills so they move into the industry as a well-rounded person.
“Apprentices are one of the most important links in our customer-facing business. They are obviously an entry level into the industry, but they are most definitely the foundation of our business looking forward to the future,” Tosolini says.
“The trades and the way they look at their apprenticeship have significantly changed since I completed my trade back in the early 2000s. They are now setting themselves up to be the future of industry and being industry leaders.”
Komatsu began the apprenticeship program out of necessity, after noticing a skills gap outside of the traditional trade requirements.
“The business morphed and developed a dedicated system around their soft skills and promoting a fast track compared to normal industry training to ensure that we were getting industry-leading and competitive people in the market,” he says.
Tosolini says seeing apprentices grow and thrive is one of the best parts of his job.
“Working with our apprentice cohort and seeing them develop from a young, green industry person, moving their way through their trade and into their role, and then progressing through their career [is very satisfying],” he says.
“We’ve now got national managers that were our apprentices. We’ve got apprentices that are developing into mentors for other apprentices and just seeing that internal growth for themselves is probably the most rewarding part for me.”
Apprenticeships a pathway to success – for businesses and individuals
Incorporating apprentices can be a great way for small and medium businesses to expand, Tosolini says.
“It’s a great way for businesses to have their technicians and their trades harness their knowledge into the generation that’s coming behind them. It’s also another way of bringing a fresh set of eyes into their business and giving them another way to look towards the future,” he says.
“If someone is looking to get into a trade, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got everything to gain and getting into an apprenticeship can set you up.”
Falconer says she feels supported by Komatsu and Apprenticeship Support Australia (ASA) to get the most out of her apprenticeship.
“ASA have been really good. They’ve helped me a lot with reflecting on my apprenticeship and seeing where I’m up to and being there to support me throughout,” she says.
Powered by CCIWA, Apprenticeship Support Australia (ASA), can facilitate employment, manage training and offer support and advice to companies seeking apprentices to boost their workforce. Contact ASA at [email protected] or phone 1300 363 831.