WHILE many graduates from across the State will soon be celebrating the end of high school with a well-earned summer break, Walkaway’s Ben Rowe has other plans.
The 2017 WA School-based Apprentice of the Year is wasting no time beginning the next chapter of his life at Geraldton’s CLAAS Harvest Centre as its youngest apprentice mechanic.
Ben is no stranger to the CLAAS Centre, having completed a school-based traineeship in agricultural mechanics at the facility over the past two years.
The teen juggled his high school studies at Geraldton Grammar School with work at the centre two days a week to complete a Certificate II in Automotive Mechanics.
It was for this work at CLAAS that he was recognised as the State’s School-based Apprentice of the Year at the WA Training Awards in September, where his confidence, enthusiasm and passion was praised by the judges.
Department of Training and Workforce Development acting director general Anne Driscoll said the State winners represented a high calibre of talent.
“The WA Training Awards are an opportunity to celebrate the successes of exceptional students, apprentices, trainees, training providers and businesses,” Ms Driscoll said.
“Our winners and finalists continue to set the bar for a highly skilled and talented workforce and are testament to the quality of vocational education and training in WA.”
Ben will head to Canberra later this month for the Australian Training Awards, where he will be up against other State finalists for the national prize.
“It was a real shock, but it’s pretty cool to represent WA and also to represent CLAAS and the agriculture industry as well,” Ben said.
The eldest of two children, Ben grew up on a mixed cropping and pig farm in England where his interest in agriculture first piqued.
“My first word was tractor, so I always wanted to be in ag,” Ben said.
When he was seven-years-old, the Rowe family moved to a broadacre mixed cropping farm in Walkaway where his passion for farming developed further.
He decided from an early age that completing a trade was a smart career option in order to be best prepared for his long-term goal of one day running the family farm.
“One day I’d like to go back to the farm and run the farm but I wanted to get a trade behind me first,” Ben said.
“One of the biggest things in farming is machines, so I decided I wanted to be a mechanic at quite a young age.
“I really wanted to know how things work and be self-reliant and learn how to fix things, so that’s how I went on that pathway.”
For the past two years, Ben has made significant progress to achieve that goal with the help and support of his family, school and the CLAAS team.
He said while the workload was challenging at times, completing a school-based traineeship was a great way for students to get a head start on their careers.
“I want to get the word out there that kids can go into a workplace while they’re still at school and finish school, it’s a really great opportunity,” Ben said.
“The balance was pretty good, I wouldn’t miss out on things and those at work were pretty good for letting me go to school when I needed to.
“I learned loads when I was working at CLAAS so I always preferred being at CLAAS rather than at school, but now I’m full-time so that’s really good.
“It has given me some leadership skills, taught me to be self reliant and improved my communication skills, that’s a big one.”
After finishing school just a fortnight ago, Ben has wasted no time and has already begun his apprenticeship to become a mechanic with CLAAS.
He will stay at the centre for at least the next four years while he completes the apprenticeship and said there was no place he would rather be.
“A lot of younger people move to Perth, but I’d like to promote jobs in agriculture in the smaller communities,” Ben said.
“I like that I can go and do my sports, I can go on the farm, I’ve got the freedom out here.
“I’ve got a job that I really like and I’m going down the pathway that I wanted to go on.
“It’s great socially too, talking to people around town and all of the farmers and I really enjoy going out to the farms.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what I’ll do after I finish my apprenticeship but I’ve got the passion for agriculture, so I will definitely spend my whole life in the industry.”