Schindler Lifts Australia is ensuring the future of the company by strengthening a commitment to its well-established apprenticeship program.
It was revealed last year that TAFE enrolments had dropped by about 83,000 between 2012 and 2015 and that there was a national completion rate of just 46 percent for trade apprentices and trainees.
This is in stark contrast to Schindler’s program, with the number of apprentices doubling over the past decade and the completion rate for the course reaching 96 percent.
As our skills base becomes older, Schindler Lifts believes it is critical that we continue to train new apprentices to sustain the future of the company.
Many of our counterparts in the industry have not made the same commitment to training, so we are fortunate to have established such a strong program over the past decade.
After again stepping up investment in the initiative, 2016 has marked one of the highest intakes of first-year apprentices in the company’s history in Australia.
A group of 17 were selected from a pool of more than 2500 applicants following assessments of their mathematical, mechanical reasoning, safety aptitude and practical abilities prior to receiving an offer.
They joined an overall group of more than 70 apprentices, who are all working towards completing their Certificate III in Electro Technology.
An apprenticeship with Schindler aims to provide up-and-coming employees with diverse skills across a broad range of areas, including installation, service repairs and modernisation of elevators, escalators and moving walks.
During their four-year apprenticeships these staff members are trained in each of Schindler’s service and install departments and exposed to all of the company’s products.
The program involves rotations across the business to provide apprentices with a solid understanding of the key aspects of what the company does to help them decide in which area they would like to specialise. This means that apprentices can build a full range of skills in the installation, service, maintenance and repair of vital equipment.
Importantly, apprentices learn how to deal with customers and what exceptional customer service looks like. While working they also go to TAFE and study for the trade qualification in Electro Technology.
In addition to their TAFE and on-the-job training, apprentices spend one week each year in the Schindler classroom where they have access to industry-leading facilities, including the three training towers and simulators in the company’s head office in Sydney.
Building a foundation
The program has built a strong foundation for many employees who began their careers as Schindler apprentices prior to moving into senior roles, both here and overseas.
Tim Woods, now a service operations manager in New South Wales, is a great example of what Schindler’s apprenticeship program is aiming to achieve. Originally from the Gold Coast, Woods started his apprenticeship with Schindler as an 18-year-old and spent at least six months in each department of the company during his first three years.
[quote style=’1′ cite=”]The program involves rotations across the business to provide apprentices with a solid understanding of the key aspects of what the company does to help them decide in which area they would like to specialise.[/quote]
After completing the stints around the company he was given the opportunity to review his experiences with the program management team, before identifying the areas of the company in which he wanted to work.
Woods went on to become a key member of the service department in Australia and continued to develop skills in his chosen area. He was then given the opportunity to work for Schindler in Vietnam, where he spent two years as the country’s construction manager, before returning to Sydney and resuming as a member of the service department.
Looking back at the path he has followed at the company, Woods says, “Schindler Australia has always provided me with opportunities knowing that I am a Schindler trained apprentice – it is really great that the company has believed in me and invested in me to become a manager.
“I see we are taking on more and more apprentices every year. It is good to see we are continuing to invest in the future of the company as Schindler trained apprentices are really good workers once they become qualified tradesmen.”
Like Woods, many former apprentices have moved into various areas of the company, such as technical support, product design and management, and they have worked in locations like Switzerland, Hong Kong, Dubai, Vietnam and Korea.
Many of these apprentices have also gone on to senior positions in the field team or even to more senior roles in sales, project management, engineering and service.
The program has benefited many field staff members by helping them acquire new skills in the areas of leadership and mentoring.
Working with apprentices really reinforces how field staff work. It puts critical processes, such as safety, into the spotlight as, in most cases, the apprentices are not familiar with all of the hazards that exist on the different types of equipment that are encountered on a day-to-day basis.
It also provides a great opportunity for field staff to take a step back from a task that has become second nature and break it down into steps that can be used to teach others.
Most importantly, Schindler’s customers can feel assured that the technician that turns up to maintain their equipment has been properly trained as an apprentice and has worked alongside staff with many years of experience.
Becoming an apprentice
Schindler Lifts’ annual apprentice recruitment drive takes place between August and November each year.
During this time the company reviews all applications, conducts various tests, sets up interviews and finally directs candidates for a pre-employment medical, prior to making an offer.
Schindler Lifts aims to select candidates by early November each year before the new apprentices begin their journey in January the following year.
Unlike many companies, Schindler Lifts directly employs apprentices. Using an ‘indenture system’, Schindler endeavours to ensure that apprentices will be employed for the entire four years and that everything will be done to ensure they finish the program with a trade qualification and electrician’s licence.
The author, Darrin Corrigan, is technical training manager at Schindler Lifts Australia. This article also appears in the June/July edition of Facility Management.