Autumn 2019 High Performance Magazine


Job security, competitive earning capacity, on-the-job-training… There are many reasons a trade should be considered as a serious and first choice career option for school leavers.

But, as Hutcheon & Pearce Human Resources Manager Sarah Johnson explains, apprenticeships are still placing second to going to university, with many school leavers, parents and career advisors still believing a trade is a ‘Plan B’.

“There is a huge push for students to consider university and there is a perception among many that a degree is more esteemed than the sub-standard trade.

“The thing is, both a trade and a university degree have their own merits, offering two completely different career pathways.”

HR Mentor Matt Duffy believes that no enough is being done to help school leavers consider both pathways.

“When I was at high school, no one really talked about uni until Year 11 or 12, but now when I go into schools to talk about apprenticeship and traineeship with Hutcheon & Pearce, the universities are in there talking to students from Year 7 right through.  And the same is not happening for the trades.

“Some schools are great at talking to students about a range of options and really helping them explore their interests, personality traits, skills and aptitudes. These careers advisors are fantastic at working in with their kids and talking to them about TAFE as well as university, and that’s what we like to see.”

Second year diesel mechanic at the Wagga Wagga Branch, Mitch Luff said that knowing he would have a career at the end of his apprenticeship was a big factor in his decision-making.

“The work is hands-on, which appealed to me, and you also get paid to do your training, unlike uni. In this career, you can keep building and getting better as you go, and I know I will likely have a job here at the end of it. That’s very reassuring.”

Sarah said that a range of jobs exist in a trade like diesel mechanic with plenty of opportunities for career progression and a foot in the door right from the start.

“The way our service department is structured means career opportunities don’t stop just as soon as you become qualified.

“At Hutcheon & Pearce, we have got progression in place for our qualified techs to continue to grow within their careers. First, they do their apprenticeship, then they go to a qualified service technician role, and then as they continue through their career they can step up to a diagnostic technician, then a master technician. There’s then foreman opportunities and service manager opportunities and at each of those levels, there are remuneration incentives as well.

“We offer ongoing training through our High Performance Academy and John Deere University, so the opportunity to learn and progress is substantial. The earning capacity for our top performing techs is very, very good.”

Matt adds, “There is no doubt that you can live a fantastic life as a tradesman in a regional area. We have third year apprentices asking for letters to take to the bank for housing loans.”

Beyond earning capacity, the wellbeing of their apprentices and trainees is paramount to Hutcheon & Pearce. Sarah pointed to the Skillsroad 2018 Youth Census – the largest youth survey in Australia – which found that young people undertaking an apprenticeship reported the highest levels of wellbeing out of all post-school pathways. They were closely followed by those engaged in a traineeship.

“The results of the Youth Census survey did not surprise me at all. As a university graduate myself, I’ve watched kids go to university, despite having no idea what they wanted to do, because the pressure from parents and schools to go straight into a university degree was huge.

“These people would often not understand what they would have or what they would do at the end of study, they would burn out, and they would either drop out in 12 months or shift between different degrees until they found something they enjoyed. I think that there’s a lot of confusion out there among these kids who are going straight into a university degree. That same uncertainty is not present with a trade.

“An apprentice like Mitch gets to be hands-on right away, so he knows exactly what he’s doing and there’s a very defined career path at the end of it. I think that it’s a comfort to know exactly what your next step is going to be.”

Both Sarah and Matt are keen to point out the added benefit of starting an apprenticeship or traineeship with Hutcheon & Pearce – the care provided outside of formal training.

“What we offer is support and guidance outside of their employment,” Matt said.

“That might mean everything from helping them find rental properties or figuring out where to do their washing right through to helping them with paperwork to support a home loan application. Some of the things we talk to them about are just fundamental to living.

“I don’t think a lot of places offer that, but when they’re 17 or 18 and living out of home for the first time, we want to help them find their way in the world. Support in helping them to adult means they can focus on building their career without those extra pressures.”

Sarah added, “With all the benefits of entering the trades, we’d encourage school leavers and their parents to really look at trades not as a back-up plan if they don’t get into uni, but as a well thought out, specific ‘Plan A’.”


View the full Summer 2018/19 High Performance Magazine here: