Caring approach makes all the difference

Ai Group’s Apprentice and Trainee Centre (Ai G ATC) has been praised for its “outstanding” care and guidance. 

Ian Melville, Managing Director of precision machining experts G&O Kert, said such mentoring was rare among training organisations.  

“The way Ai Group approaches its apprentice placement has been outstanding,” Mr Melville said. 

“They take ownership. They’re dealing with young people who have lots of other things to deal with in life – all the things that teens and people in their early 20s go through.  

“We found that in the past, the other RTOs (Registered Training Organisations) really didn’t care about their apprentices. All they wanted to see was some boxes ticked so they could get their government funding.” 

Brisbane-based G&O Kert has four Ai Group apprentices among its 32-strong workforce. 

Mr Melville said the care demonstrated by Ai G ATC Queensland Area Manager Paul Eames meant G&O Kert could focus on teaching apprentices the skills they had come to learn.  

“We try to create the right environment for apprentices and give them good opportunities,” Mr Melville said. 

“As soon as Paul came on board, we could see he had a different attitude and a different approach, which really suits us. 

“We’re serious about looking after our apprentices, making sure they’re in a good mental state to do their job properly and to work safely and well with other people.  

“Ai Group’s approach has been really in line with ours, which is what we aim for in all our business relationships. When we know we’re supported in providing that care, it makes all the difference.” 

Mr Melville said G&O Kert strived to give apprentices broad experience. 

“We’re constantly monitoring how the apprentices are going and trying to move them across sectors of the workshop so when they finish their four years, they’ve had some exposure to most applications that we take on in the workplace,” he said. 

“We’ve invested in top-end equipment — the latest and greatest. The last piece of equipment we put in, this year, was a $1million investment. One of the apprentices is a key operator of that machine, under the guidance of a tradesman.  

“For an apprentice to get exposure to that is pretty unique. The last bit of gear we put in prior to that was in early 2019. That’s another state-of-the-art machine and was the first of that controller type in Australia.  

“We’re investing with the future in mind. From a new apprentice point of view, it’s a big plus for us that we have the latest and greatest to play on and learn on.   

“There’s that opportunity to get on board with the smarts at the top of the queue.” 

Fitter and turner Shardon Wilson (pictured right, with second-year apprentice Brock Owen-Cooper) finished his apprenticeship at G&O Kert in September and was more than happy to stay on. 

The 26-year-old, who works on advanced CNC (computer numerical control) machinery, said he had gained invaluable skills. 

“Having the new machinery feels likes getting a step ahead in the industry,” Mr Wilson said. 

“I’ve learned a lot, and the apprenticeship was really good. It all ran smoothly. There were never any problems with getting in contact with [Ai Group] and they take safety seriously. They also keep up to date with TAFE.” 

Ai G ATC’s QLD office is at Acacia Ridge TAFE, which makes it easy for Mr Eames to visit apprentices when they are on campus.  

“We can organise interviews and inductions easily, too,” Mr Eames added. 

“I believe the apprentices enjoy the fact they are not on their own and have Ai G ATC to help them out with any questions or issues they may have. 

“All PPE (personal protective equipment) is supplied by us and replaced or added to, as necessary, and our safety program is second to none in the apprentice hosting industry.” 

Host companies also benefit from Ai G ATC’s program.  

“Our recruitment process is centred around finding the right person for the apprenticeship and the next great tradesman, which can be hard to find,” Mr Eames said. 

“Ai G ATC takes the risk and pressure from the host company, and it is a win-win as companies don’t need to spend time and money setting up and monitoring apprentices as we do it all.” 

As a result, apprentices could focus on acquiring a strong skillset, Mr Melville said.  

“There’s a lot of pride in seeing them finish,” he added. 

“You look at them going out and you think ‘that kid’s going out with G&O’s logo on him’. We’re really quite proud of what we do for the industry and in the industry.”