FARMERS Centre 1978 has adopted a new strategy to overcome a skilled staff shortage.
The company, which has been involved in training staff for more than a decade and has staff with more than 500 years' total experience, is working with the TAFE education system to enhance product specific courses for its year one to fourth year apprentices.
And according to dealer principal Grant Wells, the aim is to retain young people in their own communities to develop careers within the farm mechanisation industry.
Currently Farmers Centre 1978 employs 63 people.
"We've been doing this for a long time and in the past two or three years we've ramped up our internal training and appointed a full-time training co-ordinator in Ian Watkins," Mr Wells said.
"Ian has been involved in training people since 2002 and he looks after all our departments from parts to sales to service and administration and there are a lot of people working in this industry now who have been taught by Ian."
Mr Wells said the majority of the company's staff - at Albany, Katanning, Dumbleyung and Lake Grace - were involved in a training program which provided them continued updates on new products and technologies.
"By doing this our staff are more able to assist customers in a world that is constantly transitioning as the result of technology changes," he said.
"What we're doing now is to provide our apprentices with product specific hands-on training, involving all our franchises, to make them better equipped to work at a high professional level.
"They will continue to work through their TAFE courses but we will work with TAFE to tailor the courses to better suit the needs of apprentices working with us."
Mr Wells said it was imperative for dealerships to invest in training because "there isn't a pool of labour that you can just draw on".
"We have to do it ourselves and say to young people we have more to offer with a better lifestyle to keep you local."
According to Mr Watkins, training is more than learning about products.
"We can grow them into confident people with a career in an industry that arguably is one of the most stable," he said. "
Agriculture is always there and our in-house training can make people feel more invested in their job as they have career opportunities presented to them".
Mr Wells said customers appreciated the focus on product training and service.
"In many cases we're now selling to three generations of farmers and carrying a strong relationship with those families," he said.
"We have sold gear to the granddads and dads of the sons now managing family farms and we can feel very confident in knowing that the people we have involved with those farmers, demonstrate the high benchmarks of professionalism and knowledge that we set.
"That's where the industry is at and I see it as a very exciting industry to be in, especially for young people."
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