Boss finds se­cret to trainees


WHEN a 12-year-old kid takes an in­ter­est in me­chan­i­cal things, buys a car when he’s 13, paints it and re­places its en­gine and works as a me­chan­i­cal trades as­sis­tant be­fore com­plet­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship, you start to think he might have a clue.

And when that same bloke amasses qual­i­fi­ca­tions in en­gi­neer­ing, train­ing and as­sess­ment, is an ac­cred­ited ve­hi­cle en­gi­neer do­ing VASS in­spec­tions and en­gi­neer­ing re­ports for truck deal­ers and body builders in his district, you know he re­ally does have a clue.

So there was no sur­prise when Ja­son Barry started his own busi­ness in the Vic­to­rian bor­der city of Wodonga. The sur­prise was the type of busi­ness.

Rather than fol­low the ex­pected path to me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, Mr Barry went off on a tan­gent, open­ing Bor­der Crane Con­sul­tants, spe­cial­is­ing in the re­pair, main­te­nance, in­stal­la­tion and ser­vic­ing of all types of load­ing sys­tems for heavy ve­hi­cles.

Bor­der Crane Con­sul­tants has in the last nine years be­come a na­tional en­tity, with staff trav­el­ling the eastern se­aboard and ven­tur­ing into South Aus­tralia and Western Aus­tralia.

Mr Barry’s abil­i­ties were even called into ser­vice by the Aus­tralian De­fence Force to de­velop a safety and com­pli­ance up­grade pack­age for cranes that had been rolled-out na­tion­ally and in­stalled on more than 200 cranes.

Such a spe­cial­ist in­dus­try re­quires spe­cial­ist staff and Mr Barry has a slightly un­ortho­dox ap­proach when it comes to gain­ing and train­ing ap­pren­tices.

“Our main core ap­pren­tice­ship is what’s called a me­chan­i­cal fit­ter, which is ba­si­cally a cross be­tween an in­dus­trial me­chanic and a fit­ter-ma­chin­ist,” he said.

“We’ve got our own paint shop so we’ve got painters, we’ve got our own boil­er­maker (and) we’ve got our own auto staff. We’ve got all sorts of trades.”

Ad­ver­tis­ing on the Seek web­site and in the lo­cal news­pa­per at­tracts ap­pli­ca­tions with the prom­ises of above-award wages, rea­son­able over­time and travel – all good hooks.

“Also there’s the di­ver­sity in the work,” Mr Barry said.

“As op­posed to do­ing work for a truck deal­er­ship and just chang­ing the oil and fil­ters, greas­ing the hubs and chang­ing seals, our guys get to do a bit of fab­ri­ca­tion, some elec­tri­cal work, some hy­draulic main­te­nance and ev­ery­thing from paint­ing to ma­chine shop en­gi­neer­ing.

“They’re not stuck in the same rut and they get to fo­cus on where they want to go as they go through the busi­ness.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Mr Barry said some of his best ap­pren­tices had been ma­ture-age ap­pli­cants.

“They seem to be a bit eas­ier to keep happy as op­posed to the peo­ple who come in green,” he said.

“An adult ap­pren­tice who is still with us is now our work­shop su­per­vi­sor (and) I’ve got a qual­i­fied avi­a­tion en­gi­neer who just fin­ished his ap­pren­tice­ship as a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer.”

His cur­rent ap­pren­tice ros­ter – he has seven – bris­tles with 30-some­things who have had work and life ex­pe­ri­ences rather than com­ing straight from school.

Re­tain­ing work­ers once they were qual­i­fied, he said, was not al­ways a ne­ces­sity.

“The ones you want to keep seem to stay around,” he said.

“Our se­nior tech­ni­cal ad­viser started as an ap­pren­tice. He was the first ap­pren­tice when we started this busi­ness eight or nine years ago and he’s still with us.”


AP­PREN­TICE MASTER: Ja­son Barry (right) on the job with Paul Nicholls.

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