Sunday, 15 May 2022 14:25

A new approach to apprenticeships

Written by  Mark Daniel
Norwood’s nationwide dealerships around NZ currently have more than 70 people working as apprentices and learners. Norwood’s nationwide dealerships around NZ currently have more than 70 people working as apprentices and learners.

By taking a new approach to its apprenticeship programme, agricultural equipment supplier Norwood says it is ensuring farmers’ machinery will be supported in the future, while also bringing a wider range of people into the industry.

This year’s intake of 22 apprentices is spread across 12 of Norwood’s nationwide dealerships. This takes the company’s overall cadre of apprentices and learners to more than 70 people. The apprentices work towards recognised NZQA qualifications, while pursuing a career in parts supply, or servicing and repair of agricultural, construction, or outdoor power equipment.

Well subscribed with over 240 applications for this year’s “earn while you learn” places, Norwood’s Apprenticeship Programme manager Len Richards says there are a wide range of trades available for apprenticeships. “But in my view, agricultural equipment is one of the most exciting,” he told Rural News. “It offers a wide range of technology that’s interesting and varied and can be modified depending on its use.”

Richards says Norwood has always brought on apprentices, but each dealership did it differently – with varying start times and support processes in place.

In 2021, the company moved to a centralised recruitment model to apply a more structured approach, working in partnership with each of its 25 dealerships, to manage the recruitment from its national support office in Palmerston North.

“Dealerships are busy enough with their day-to-day work keeping farmers moving, so we are trying to lighten their load, as well as offering the apprentices themselves a more consistent and focussed learning experience,” says Richards.

Recruitment occurs at the same time for all dealerships, allowing each year’s intake to go through their training in one cohort. The benefit of this is allowing apprentices the chance to develop strong relationships to support them through their training.

Richards adds that support for the apprentices at their dealerships will be provided via a new mentoring programme, where trainees are buddied up for up to two years with an experienced person in the workshop.

The programme is run in conjunction with MITO/Te Pūkenga, but where possible, Norwood delivers its own technical training and carries out the internal assessment of its apprentices on their journey towards becoming qualified.

“Together with our purpose-built national training centre and technical support team in Palmerston North and our product specialists out in the regions, we make sure our apprentices do their training on our products using our diagnostic tools,” he explains.

Alongside the development of young people in the industry, Norwood is also working to improve diversity in its workshops. The company says last year this was given a boost through a government programme, which allowed the company to bring on additional people who had been negatively affected by Covid-19 – with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika.

“In our mind an apprentice isn’t just a young male who’s aged between 17 and 19,” Richard says.

“Last year, we brought in two female technical apprentices, two apprentices in their mid-50s and this year’s cohort has an age range of 17 to 34 and encompasses a range of different cultures and nationalities.”

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