Attracting, training, retaining, maintaining and sustaining the right staff. These are the hallmarks of a successful business says Alan Waldron, National Training Manager of Hutchinson Builders, Queensland’s largest privately owned construction company.
Employing more than 1,400 people, including 150 Australian Apprentices and cadets, Hutchinson Builders—or ‘Hutchies’ as they are fondly called— knows a thing or two about vocational education and training (VET). Their innovation and dedication was rewarded with the 2017 Large Employer of the Year at Australian Training Awards. This was the second time the company has won the title. It was also crowned winner in 2011.
‘Our professional and personal training programs value our employees and lift their skills, which in turn lifts our capability,’ Alan says.
Hutchies also owns and operates the Gold Coast School of Construction, which, along with apprentice and short course training, delivers an in-house pre-apprenticeship registered training program developed with the support of the Queensland Government and Construction Skills Queensland.
Apprentices, trainees and other staff engage in structured training with subcontractors also taking advantage of Hutchies’ programs. Apprentice completion rates are at more than 90 per cent due to Hutchies’ in-house Apprentice Development Coordinators who monitor apprentices’ training and provide mentoring and emotional support.
The coordinators are important. ‘Training is just half the equation,’ says Alan. ‘Apprentices are “real people” and their personal life can impact on their work life. Coordinators support them to make informed decisions.’
At Hutchies, new entrants undergo pre-apprenticeship training, then trade training and then post trade training on Hutchinson construction sites or with one of its 3,500 subcontractors.
‘The industry covers more than 70 careers,’ says Alan. ‘We get pre-apprentices to “try before they buy” by exposing them to options before choosing a trade. This reduces cancellation rates because graduates know what’s involved.’
Hutchinson has produced many shining stars, including Chantelle Love. ‘She was a top student in Certificate I in Construction and was a standout for an apprenticeship,’ says Alan. ‘She joined us, completed a Certificate III in Carpentry and went on to complete a Certificate IV and Diploma in Workplace Health and Safety. She is now a safety manager on our biggest high-rise project with an $385 million construction component.’
‘We first invested in training to improve our capacity and didn’t want to solely rely on the outside market,’ says Alan. ‘We wanted to “Hutchify” recruits. Today we’re benefiting from the flow-through effect, creating our own future leaders and growing from the inside out.’
Hutchinson Builders has expanded to work directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including through the Australian Government’s Employer Parity Initiative. Hutchinson is assisting with the employment of 350 Indigenous people into construction.
‘It’s important that businesses think VET,’ says Alan. ‘It saves money, results in better quality staff, increases capability and capacity; and helps meet business objectives.’
Hutchinson Builders is proud to be an Australian VET Alumni member. ‘The Australian Training Awards are an important recognition process for large employers,’ says Alan. ‘It sends a message to staff that our programs are something to be proud of. Our industry peers see we’re on the right track too.