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AN INNOVATIVE partnership between major dealership group Peter Warren Automotive and the NSW TAFE has boosted apprenticeship numbers and formed a comprehensive training package to assure high quality technicians for the future.

Peter Warren Automotive (PWA) has 40 first-year apprentices now in its inaugural D.R.I.V.E. Academy established to meet the growing demand for skilled automotive workers.

The initiative comes as the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce calls for a new focus on apprentices for the automotive industry in what it terms “a critical labour shortage”.

VACC CEO Geoff Gwilym said there are 31,000 jobs in the industry around Australia that can’t be filled.

He said immigration was relied on in past decades “but that hasn’t been available for the past 18 months and, I think, unlikely for the next couple of years.”

“We can’t create apprentices that aren’t there,” he said.

“Only 50 percent of the industry puts on apprentices – that should be 70 percent. We have to go back to 1975 and re-engage the apprentice market.”

PWA’s group training manager Gary Davenport said the training takes place at TAFE’s Campbelltown campus for apprentices from the dealership’s franchises in Warwick Farm, Northern Beaches and Campbelltown.

The first-year apprentices study light-vehicle mechanical technology at TAFE but the program is customised to suit the needs of the dealership and its specific brands.

“The training is done by TAFE NSW but we have designed the program along similar lines to an OEM,” said Mr Davenport.

“This means we have three groups of apprentices who each attend TAFE classrooms in Campbelltown for five day blocks. This is one of the benefits of our training program.

“In addition, we provide Peter Warren Automotive uniforms for the apprentices and for the 14 TAFE lecturers. This reflects the strength of our partnership between TAFE and us.

“We also have one group of apprentices who are dedicated to Mercedes-Benz training. So they stay together and attend the TAFE classroom at the same time.

“We are talking to other OEMs – including Honda Australia – to supply dedicated training vehicles to support the D.R.I.V.E. Academy.”

Mr Davenport said the program is also specific for Peter Warren Automotive “in that we have tailored it to include areas such as customer service, health and safety, and compliance – areas that may not normally be tutored by an OEM because unlike a dealership, they may have less contact with the customers”.

The partnership between PWA and the NSW TAFE was announced earlier this year by NSW minister for skills and tertiary education, Geoff Lee.

“This partnership will see first-year apprentices receive hands-on training specific to the vehicle makes associated with Peter Warren Automotive,” Mr Lee said.

“This agreement is an example of how TAFE NSW partners with industry to deliver practical and specific skills to meet industry needs.

“In this case, building a pipeline of mechanics to strengthen the automotive industry and meet the safety and customer service needs of Peter Warren Automotive.”

By Neil Dowling

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