Powering up apprentices through quality training is a big deal for one of South Australia's largest employers. It'ss not just because SA Power Networks services 855,000 customers, through a network of 88,000 kilometres of powerlines and 400 substations; it's because the range of vocational education and training (VET) it has been designing and rolling out over many years is key to its industry-leading safety performance.
"In our line of work, competency training is essential," says Angela Corker, Manager Learning and Development.
"This includes working safely with high voltage electricity, driving heavy vehicles safely and operating safely when working at heights and in confined spaces.".
For its first-class VET program, SA Power Networks was awarded the 2017 Australian Apprenticeships Employer Award at the Australian Training Awards. The award recognises the company for its innovative training, which has energised the careers of hundreds of its apprentices and added benefits to the local community.
"We've always trained to exceptionally high standards and our apprentices get some of the best training in Australia," says Angela.
"Recently we've charged up innovations that enable us to train in an entirely safe environment.
"This includes using virtual technology, e-training and simulated environments like in our multi-million-dollar substation, which has off-grid control rooms, poles and towers to ensure the best learning outcomes."
Direct, tangible benefits of VET and other training at SA Power Networks include a very low lost-time-injury rate, high employee retention rates and internationally recognised best-in-industry skills. It also has supported the attraction of more female electrical workers
"Establishing a comprehensive and high-quality VET program is valuable to meeting business objectives,"says Angela.
"Formal qualifications improve company performance by giving employees the skills they need to advance their careers. They also help prepare businesses for the future."
Angela recommends businesses apply for the Australian Training Awards for the many benefits the process itself leads to.
"It makes you more attractive as an employer of choice and enhances your reputation," she says.
"Completing an award application is a great internal health check, even if you don't win, because it forces you to examine where you've come from, where you want to go, your statistics and other data and even stories from those working for you.
"The process has also helped our owners, management and team recognise how far we've come and identify gaps where we could improve," says Angela.
"Our win validated our investment in training and our safety standards."