How TAFE in Wollongong is kickstarting steel careers

Head start: BlueScope electrical engineering cadet Victoria Wiffen with mechanical engineering cadets Daniel Quinten and Tyler Leggett learning to cut steel at TAFE Wollongong.
Head start: BlueScope electrical engineering cadet Victoria Wiffen with mechanical engineering cadets Daniel Quinten and Tyler Leggett learning to cut steel at TAFE Wollongong.

BlueScope Steel is one of three businesses who have teamed up with TAFE NSW to ensure new recruits hit the ground running.

BlueScope, Snowy Hydro and Peabody Energy put new apprentices and cadets through an eight-week Trade Readiness Program at TAFE NSW Wollongong every year.

The training is an introduction to foundation skills that will help will build their careers.

TAFE NSW Wollongong engineering skills team head Peter Buttenshaw said the short course was all about helping the students are productive from day one on the job.

“By the time these apprentices get on site they’re safe, know how to use a lot of the machinery and can interpret schematics,” Mr Buttenshaw said.

“The focus is on metal fabrication and welding, but the students will gain skills and experience in some electrical and high-risk environment training.”

Safe driving, bully management and money management are some of the other topics covered.

Each year that training is reviewed to ensure it meets the specific needs of each business.

BlueScope maintenance improvement manager Peter O'Brien said the training was carefully planned and TAFE NSW took BlueScope’s number one priority safety, on board.

“We’ve developed a strong relationship with TAFE NSW and as a result they have a good understanding of how to meet our training requirements,” he said.

Other businesses TAFE NSW works with in providing customised training include PWC, Woolworths, Cisco and Harley-Davidson.

Mr O’Brien said BlueScope sent its new recruits to the Wollongong campus annually because the program was so efficient at providing apprentices with a good starting base.

“The training provides basic hand-tool skills, an introduction to some power tools we use on site, and an introduction to some of the engineering principles that will be important in their trade.

“It’s very helpful that our apprentices have this opportunity to develop some fundamental skills and knowledge at TAFE NSW Wollongong, before they start working at our plant. It also means we’re not putting extra pressure on our own tradespeople to get the apprentices up to that level. They’ve already got some skills and knowledge behind them when they start.”

We’ve developed a strong relationship with TAFE NSW and as a result they have a good understanding of how to meet our training requirements

BlueScope maintenance improvement manager Peter O'Brien