Topdrill futureproofs their business with apprentices and trainees

Topdrill, a Western Australian drilling company, is growing in a sustainable way by taking on apprentices and trainees. Working with The Apprenticeship Community, Topdrill has increased employee numbers to scale up rigs and facilities. Now, two thirds of the 200 staff are trainees or apprentices. Topdrill has been able to do this by taking advantage of the government schemes on offer, including Boosting Apprenticeships Commencement.

Role diversification has made the business more robust

Topdrill is a privately owned, family-oriented business that has been in operation for over 15 years. In the past, the company recruited traditional experienced apprentices in the mechanical trades (i.e. boilermakers, heavy duty fitters and plant mechanics). Through their partnership with The Apprenticeship Community, Topdrill is recruiting new apprenticeships, including auto electrical, as well as hiring apprentices and trainees fresh out of school. Diversification has been good for business – building a better skilled workforce and increasing retention.

Government incentives can make a real difference

With the help of The Apprenticeship Community, Topdrill has accessed a range of state and federal funding. This includes the current Boosting Apprenticeships Commencement (BAC) scheme, the Jobs and Skills WA Employer Incentive Australian Apprenticeships Incentives programme and the West Australian government’s payroll tax exemption. With a significant fortnightly payroll cost, the 5% exemption makes a huge difference.

The Apprenticeship Community also helped Topdrill apply for and obtain funding through the highly competitive Adult Apprentice Employer Incentive.

The benefits of vocational training

The Topdrill team is passionate about taking on apprentices and trainees. Through vocational training, workers can get stuck into physical operations while learning about the theory behind the work they’re doing.

Topdrill is one step ahead when it comes to recruitment during a mining boom.  Their recruits are allowing the business to be sustainable. Topdrill recruits over 80% of their apprentices through their existing drill crew. This means when many start their apprenticeship or traineeship they already have on-the-ground experience. This approach gives employees a greater range of career options and is less of a financial burden on the business.

Weathering the ‘boom or bust’ cycles of the mining industry

During quiet times, not many employers train the next generation. This can cause major issues when boom times arrive. Topdrill thinks differently and ensures their apprentices make up a generous proportion of their workers. The business currently has seven field fitters and three qualified boilermakers. On top of those ten fully qualified workers, they also have five apprentices. This is a ratio that Managing Director, Tim Topham, is proud of.

A leading drilling trainer in Western Australia

The business’ volume of apprentices and trainees has allowed AMPT, their Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to train and assess on the job. This enhances the cultural immersion new recruits are exposed to and provides an opportunity to set an example within the business. This also allows management to identify exceptional employees.

Historically, many roles within Topdrill were not recognised as being ‘skilled’ trades. The Apprenticeship Community has helped the business change this, operate, and be seen in a new way.

What’s next for Topdrill?

The business aims to build on its quality offering and workforce retention.  This requires ongoing upskilling. With the support from The Apprenticeship Community, and financial assistance from state and federal government, Topdrill is confident it will reach its goal.

Last word from Founder and CEO, Tim Topham

Tim encourages businesses to think about their contribution to industry and the community, especially while there are generous government incentives.

“If we want to be in business for the long-term, we have to build a workforce that’s skilled and trained. The Apprenticeship Community made scaling up with apprentices and trainees pretty seamless and easy. For an organisation like ours, they took the headache away of recruiting and organising. Their support has been invaluable.

“We also have a retention rate of 75% – far higher than the industry norm. The right support, incentives, training and company culture have all contributed to this.”

Find out more about Topdrill.

What services does The Apprenticeship Community offer employers?

If an employer needs guidance, advice or support, the team is here to help. Their team of experts specialise in:

  • signing up apprentices and trainees
  • looking after administration, including eligibility assessments and contract registration
  • funding advice
  • recruitment and onboarding
  • mentoring
  • mental health tools and resources
  • community connections
  • ongoing wraparound support.


Employers can call 08 6165 3362 or book a chat online.

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