New image for vital profession

26 May, 2004 10:00 PM
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ERASE the word mechanic from your mind. In today¹s agriculture we¹re talking service technicians.

It¹s a new profile and a new image that the Farm Machinery Dealers Association (FMDA) wants to promote to attract young people into the farm mechanisation industry.

The centrepiece of this promotion is the FMDA¹s pre-apprenticeship course at Narrogin Agriculture College aimed at providing high school students with literacy and numeric skills, along with a first year certificate-standard apprenticeship in agricultural mechanics.

The course has waxed and waned for 10 years but there is a new resolve in FMDA ranks to promote the course in the face of a chronic shortage of mechanics in machinery dealerships.

Wagin machinery dealer Brenton Aughey, who with fellow dealers Greg Humphries (Corrigin) and Geoff Perkins (Narrogin), leads an FMDA committee to oversee the pre-apprenticeship course, is brutally frank about the shortage.

³It¹s a major problem, exacerbated by the rapid technological advances in machinery which demand highly trained and skilled labour,² he said.

³Yet we are faced with a perception that working in a dealership is a dead-end job, and young people are more inclined to tell you they want to work in the mining industry.

³It sounds exciting and there is the initial lure of more money.

³But generally it¹s not long term and we want to get the message across to young people that there are excellent career pathways in machinery dealerships.

³Its not only service technicians, but parts specialists, computer operators and management positions.

³And the important thing is that encouraging these young people to stay in country towns provides a major boost to the community.

³We are aiming to place about 50 technicians into dealerships over the next five years and while that may not sound like many, we believe it will be a major message to attract even more young people to stay in agriculture.

³We also want parents to know that a career for their child, as a service technician, for example, is both rewarding and making a contribution to their community.²

According to Narrogin Agriculture College mechanical trade instructor Simon Pfitzner, the 12 month course is an integrated program which can give students a significant advantage in applying for an apprenticeship over their peers.

³Students have an opportunity to get professional guidance in choosing their career pathway and this course is transferable to another certificate,² he said.

³The hands-on learning is two-fold with training at the college in a simulated dealership and structured workplace learning and at a dealership.

³In addition, students are involved in repairing and maintaining the college¹s vehicle fleet and equipment.²

The simulated dealership comes complete with a service counter, parts store, administration and teaching rooms and a large workshop capable of housing headers and tractors.

During a two week cycle, students spend two days on the college¹s farm and eight days in the simulated dealership.

On school holiday breaks they have an opportunity of gaining work experience at an FMDA dealership or returning to their family farm to help out during seeding and harvesting.

The FMDA has made a commitment to provide apprenticeships for this year¹s intake of 10 students subject to successful completion of the course.

³We¹re trying to place students as close to their families,² Brenton said. ³This will facilitate a smoother transition for the student as well as being able to live at home.²

Narrogin Agriculture College staff make regular visits to high schools throughout WA to promote the college curriculum and Simon and fellow instructor Matt Schlueter are keen to rejuvenate interest in agricultural mechanics.

If you are interested in more information you can contact them on 9881 2938.

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