Auto Industry Mentor Program To End This Year

In January 2018, the Australian Government announced the Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices (ISMAA) program which saw the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTA Queensland) become the industry mentor for automotive apprentices. For almost two years, a team of dedicated MTA Queensland mentors have provided support to over 1,109 first and second-year automotive students throughout the state.

Luke Gavin, a second year, mature-aged apprentice from Metropolitan Autogas in North Brisbane is one such student and he receives guidance from ISMAA mentor Andrew Bear.

“I first came to Metropolitan Autogas when I was dealing with depression. I wanted to break that routine of being stuck in a house and I wanted to keep busy. After several months of assisting around the workshop I was lucky enough to be offered an apprenticeship.”

Tanith Tritton, who co-owns Metropolitan Autogas with her husband Scott, is a qualified Light Vehicle Mechanic and has over 25 years’ experience as an owner and employer.

“When Luke came to us, he was unemployed and due to personal circumstances was suffering from depression. He sought us out and said, ‘I don’t care if I clean up or change oil, I just want something to keep me busy,’ so we were happy to take him on.

“I’ve seen a lot in my experience and as a qualified tradesperson I know the challenges that an apprentice in the automotive industry faces, including low pay, the learning hurdle, becoming familiar with different vehicles and so much more; and that’s just in a professional capacity. On a personal level, everybody has something going on and everybody needs support at some time. I think the mentoring program is so important for this reason.

“As an employer, I’ve been really happy with the support provided by MTA Queensland and I’m so grateful to have had Andrew as a mentor to Luke.

“Andrew is very friendly and open. As a mentor, he doesn’t act like a parent or a boss and because he’s a qualified mechanic, he knows the challenges an apprentice faces and asks the deeper questions about headspace and wellbeing.

“I absolutely believe that Andrew has helped Luke. He provides a different opinion and a different perspective and there would absolutely be things that an employee couldn’t talk to their boss about. Andrew has provided the kind of support that I couldn’t. That is a great thing for an apprentice to have access to,” said Tanith.

As part of the ISMAA program, MTA Queensland mentors provide face-to-face support and guidance to apprentices including:

• support in the development of technical skills;
• support off-the-job learning needs;
• provide career and pathway advice related to the automotive industry;
• provide motivation and build confidence to help achieve potential and develop resilience;
• be a positive role model and encourage independence and self-reliance; and
• provide support and advice to apprentices during periods of personal difficulty, and if struggling with mental health, provide a process to assist with seeking help.

“I once had a young female apprentice who was going through some personal problems and this resulted in her dropping out of her apprenticeship,” said Tanith.

“I wish that we’d had access to the mentoring program then because if she had someone to talk to, or guidance with how to seek support, she may very well have finished her apprenticeship and gone on to have a successful career.”

“To me, the most beneficial thing about the mentoring program has been just knowing that there’s help there if you need it,” said Luke.

“Andrew goes out of his way to help with stuff. Whether it be help with work – if I need questions answered or providing contacts for counsellors and support networks. For me, the mentor program has played a huge part in supporting the continuation of my apprenticeship.

“It’s really nice to have someone that is genuinely interested in what is happening and asks questions. He is interested in how I am doing, not just how I am progressing with my job. It makes a big difference.”

“I think the mentoring program should have been brought in many years ago, and I think it’s something that should be continued for many years more to come,” Tanith continued.

“I’d say this program would be beneficial for apprentices in their third and fourth year as well, not just the first and second years,” Luke agreed.

“Your need for support does not disappear once you hit third year. If the mentor program was available for the full four years of an apprenticeship, I’d absolutely want to stay involved.”

Dr Brett Dale, Group Chief Executive for MTA Queensland said, “The mentoring program has had a major positive effect on the students involved and as an extension of this, the future of the automotive industry.

“Data from 2017 shows that approximately 40 per cent of automotive apprentices failed to finish their training, which is an incredibly high statistic and a major problem for an industry with severe skills shortages.

“The ISMAA program was really needed and set a target to achieve a 75 per cent retention rate through the mentor program. We are thrilled to have gone above and beyond this, achieving an 81 per cent retention rate in the Queensland automotive industry; an improvement of over 20 per cent.

“With the program due to finish at the end of 2019, a significant support mechanism will be removed for apprentices currently connected to it. I have no doubt that students and employers will feel this gap. The mentor program has been a huge success and I’d love to see the initiative continue. In fact, I’d like to see it extended to cover apprentices throughout their four-year journey. With massive shortages in skilled automotive technicians, the government really needs to make this a top priority.”

Source: Motor Trader E-Magazine (Nov 2019)

7 Nov 2019