IT seems to becoming less common that young people want to work for their parents’ business, particularly in rural areas, but the Earnshaw family from Lake Grace appears to be defying the odds.
Lake Grace Engineering was established in 1999 by Clint and Tracey Earnshaw when they decided to move to the eastern Wheatbelt town for the adventure of running their own business.
Clint started his career in welding and fabrication working at Austal Ships and later held various positions in metal fabricating and operations, managing and supervising at Geraldton and Narembeen, before he and Tracey made the big move further south to Lake Grace.
The business started off as a one-man show with Clint being the only fabricator.
Nineteen years later, it has grown to have eight staff members who service the local area and surrounding towns with machinery maintenance and repairs and manufacturing new augers and seed and super bins.
Of their five children – Cayson, 22, Cody, 20, Cooper,16, Charlee,16 and Summer,12, the three boys have taken an interest in the fabrication trade and been involved in the family business.
Perhaps inspired by his parents, Cayson has moved to Canberra to run his own business in the building, maintenance and general handyman industry and Cody and Cooper are still working with their parents.
All three boys started their full-time apprenticeships when they were 15-years-old and Tracey is proud to see her sons develop their careers with determination and focus.
“Having the boys train at such a young age has enabled them to learn exactly the way we want them to, ensuring they develop the correct skills and knowledge for them to grow while in a safe and busy workshop,” Tracey said.
She said her sons always had an interest in building and various trades as they spent a lot of their childhood watching and helping Clint in the workshop and experimenting with tools.
Tracey wasn’t surprised when the boys decided to learn a trade and do their apprenticeships through the family business, but said having all three of them involved in the business was surreal.
“We were surprised that all three of them chose to do the trade - you often don’t see that very much with family businesses,” Tracey said.
“Even though they are or have been the youngest people in the workshop, in some cases they are actually the most experienced and are quite capable of teaching others because they have grown up knowing what things in the workshop are and how they work, all just by watching their dad.”
Cody has five years’ metal fabricating experience under his belt, which is much more than you would expect for a 20-year-old, and he is building the Lake Grace Engineering range of products including seed and super bins and self-propelled augers.
“It is rewarding to be able to service farmers and other customers’ machinery when it breaks down,” Cody said.
“There is pretty much something different to be done every day and I enjoy the challenge of having to work out how to fix things for people – it’s up to us to know how or figure out how to fix it.”
Cooper is in the second year of his apprenticeship and said he appreciates the variety of the work and the flexibility of working for his parents.
“I like learning all the different tasks and enjoy using all the different equipment and it’s good to have a mix of jobs to do almost every day,” Cooper said.
Tracey said trying to find new staff was the biggest challenge for the business over the years.
It’s no secret that people are often hesitant to move to the country and given Lake Grace’s location the Earnshaws have struggled to attract long-term staff.
“It seems that people think the country isn’t an exciting place to live, so we have opted to use the skilled migration scheme which seems to be the most effective way to get people to come here,” Tracey said.
“It gives them the chance to experience life in the country and if they can move and settle here then they are likely to stay.”
Five of their staff – which is more than half – were recruited through the scheme which has created a great dynamic of mixed cultures in the business, including workers from Croatia, Estonia, The Philippines and an Afghanistan refugee.
“It is good to get to know people from different cultures and understand where they have come from and their experiences,” Tracey said.
While running their own business is rewarding, Tracey and Clint said they have never lost focus of the customers they served or supporting their staff.
“Our staff are here to earn a living and support their families, so we need to make sure we have enough work to keep them on,” Tracey said.