Norton Gold Fields is one of Australia’s largest domestic gold producers. To begin with, the business focused on Surface Extraction and Resource Processing traineeships in Perth. With their recent growth, they’re now taking on apprenticeships in the mechanical, fabrication and electrical trades.
Has COVID impacted your ability to find the staff you need?
Initially, staffing suffered due to employees from the eastern states being locked down or in isolation. Otherwise it’s been good and staff turnover has reduced because of workforce uncertainty. The number of available positions has also grown due to growth in new projects and exploration.
How do you usually manage workforce development, for example training and up-skilling?
We use a Training Needs Analysis for our whole site and individual roles to identify our needs.
We’ve also developed training matrices to track individual performance and address skills gaps.
What value have your apprentices and trainees brought to your business?
There are two big things. ‘Green’ recruits are eager to learn and readily accept instructions on how we like things to be done without bringing the bad habits they’ve learned elsewhere.
Mature workers wanting a career change, or people who have had to leave a current apprenticeship, are also more readily available. They bring the advantages of experience which reduces training time and increases time spent on the tools.
What would your business look like without apprentices?
Personally, I think growth and knowledge would suffer. Apprentices and trainees allow us the opportunity to teach workers to a national standard across the board, measure our training systems against those standards, and ensures everything is kept up-to-date. The funding available also helps us create a buffer while workers are gaining the skills required for their roles. This reduces the initial financial burden that’s usually involved with training new employees.
Tell us how The Apprenticeship Community has supported you?
We’ve worked with The Apprentice Community for a number of years. They make the whole process painless and are very knowledgeable in the field. Sign-ups are quick and easy, they go out of their way to work in with schedules (sometimes at very odd hours if required) and are always available for advice, both to the company and students. They also keep everyone on track and make sure all parties involved are aware of their responsibilities.
What funding have you been able to access for your apprentices and trainees?
We’ve accessed the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements payments and Job Skills WA incentive payments. They can be awkward to set up but the Apprenticeship Community helps with this. They’re familiar with online portals like the WAAMS website and know how to navigate them.
What would you say to other employers considering taking on an apprentice or trainee?
I see no reason not to, especially in current times. It’s a cash-positive boost and gives a business time and support to train workers well in their systems and procedures.
They also give the employee a tangible goal to work towards that can be monitored. The certification they achieve is theirs for life and can lead to other opportunities.
The sense of achievement gained from having your skills recognised can greatly improve workplace culture. I’ve found more seasoned veterans in the workplace are starting to ask about certification once they see the traineeship results.
Hairama Ranui (Processing Trainee) and Liam Smee (a mature-age Electrical Apprentice) are both earning and
learning on the job at Norton Gold Fields, while gaining a nationally recognised qualification.