Leussink Engineering has defied “gloom and doom” forecasts for manufacturing in the NSW industrial region of Illawarra and is increasing its apprenticeship quota this year.
The company firmly believes that by training its own staff it will open even greater market opportunities in mining, rail, construction, shipbuilding, energy, materials handling, transport and general manufacturing.
Further, as it has already demonstrated over the last 28 years in apprentice training, by developing a highly technical in-house team it throws open the doors for import replacement deals with large companies desperate for fast turnaround on time-critical jobs and component emergencies.
Company director Jason Leussink strongly believes it is this platform, based on the strength of skilled apprentices, that has protected Leussink’s markets through indifferent times.
He now sees the company expanding into new markets as a provider to some of the biggest companies in industrial Australia.
“We are always bringing through a group of fresh youngsters that are learning new manual skills from ground level before moving onto CNC training,” says Mr Leussink.
“Our apprentice uptake ratio has always been very high. This year, however, we have increased the quota as there are six apprentices to be taken on. In a workforce of 45 employees that is a very high percentage.
“We normally have about eight apprentices on the production floor at the same time. As of 2012 we will have 14. In 1995 we first appointed a dedicated trainer for apprentices and that is all this one particular supervisor does.
“His supervision range is very high because our boys progress quite rapidly and training is intense because most of our equipment is CNC rather than manual.
“We do take on tradespeople when we can find, but they are few and far between and their skills are often such that they cannot hit the ground running. Our in-house apprentices most often slot in much more comfortably to new technical tasks.”
Leussink Engineering’s business is fairly unique as it is focused on quite small batch quantities – often as small as a single item.
Attention to scheduling and inventory combined with highly trained apprentices ensures these cost effective tiny runs are viable for clients.
“With a plethora of highly trained CNC-savvy young staff on the production floor, we have that solid background to produce these once-off items for a good price and quality because we do it all the time and are very good at it,” says Mr Leussink.
“We have made a lot of refinement to the apprentice selection process over the last five years and over that time we’ve had about 80-100 applicants per intake.
“Our record is excellent, Mr Leussink says. “We retain about 90% of our trained apprentices and our employee age profile is very young. We see these as very strong signs for not just our company but Australian industry in general.
“Now, as we invest in newer and more sophisticated CNC machinery, we are not only looking to hire new people externally to operate these; we are moving our in-house trained personnel up the ladder to up-skill them while opening doors to even more apprentices to come through the system.”
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