JOHN Deere dealership group AFGRI Equipment Australia is embarking on a ground-breaking plan to solve the service technician labour shortage in the farm mechanisation industry.
It hopes to raise awareness of the career opportunities that exist in the farm mechanisation industry.
With an annual apprenticeship intake program already in place, called the AFGRI Apprentice Academy, AFGRI has liaised with Central Regional TAFE Moora to be part of the company’s specialised training program.
This year 24 AFGRI Academy apprentices from its 14 branches will attend the Central Regional TAFE Moora campus of the CY O’Connor Institute, to embark on a Certificate III in Agriculture which will also involve four units specific to John Deere equipment.
It will mean students will complete 24 units over a four-year period at Moora while also being enrolled in John Deere University’s online training and hands-on training at the particular AFGRI branch at which they are employed.
In the future, AFGRI believes there will be a considerable growth in the number of apprentices it employs every year.
AFGRI also has inaugurated its Parts Interpreter Traineeships with an intake of 10 applicants to start training next month.
The traineeship is the nationally-recognised two-year TAFE Certificate III course and will involve on-the-job training and internal training at the academy.
According to AFGRI’s group service manager Steve Shakespeare, who is overseeing the apprenticeship training, the new direction resulted from a review of the company’s employment program.
“There is a serious shortage of qualified trained agricultural technicians in the industry so we decided to get on the front foot, so to speak and train people and encourage them in a career pathway with us,” he said.
“It made sense to us to keep training in the country, rather than having apprentices travelling to Perth training institutions.
“With everything they do, after four years they will emerge as level two John Deere technicians and they then can advance to level three to complete a Masters technician course before they decide on a career pathway that can include service manager, technical mechanical specialist or technical AMS specialist.
“Being together at Moora, they will develop friendships and share knowledge, while developing a camaraderie which we hope will deliver really talented individuals prepared to make a genuine contribution to country communities.
“We’ve obviously been involved in speaking with the appropriate local businesses in Moora to share our plan because with extra people in the town it will require accommodation facilities etc, and maybe the opportunity for extra work for some businesses.
“We have a branch in Moora so we are part of the business community and our ethos in all our branches is to share in the dynamics of making the communities stronger and encouraging career pathways in agriculture.”
p AFGRI Equipment Australia was established in 2004 when the company bought John Deere dealership, T H Walton Stores Carnamah, Geraldton and Moora.
After 10 years of growing and consolidating the business, the company expanded by acquiring John Deere dealership Jolly & Sons, adding Dalwallinu and Wongan Hills to its stable.
In 2016 it successfully completed the acquisition of fellow John Deere dealership Greenline Ag, to increase its WA network to 11 dealerships, adding Perth, Pingelly, Wagin, Lake Grace and Witchcliffe.
Last year it bought Esperance John Deere dealer Ratten & Slater, with branches at Esperance, Gnowangerup and Albany.
That sale marked the finalisation of an 18-month expansion strategy, which included a new head office in Middle Swan.
According to the company’s operations director Gollie Coetzee, that’s not the end of AFGRI’s aim to continue to grow its business.
“We’re open to growth and we want to keep promoting careers in agriculture,” he said.