Komatsu's apprentice development system combines mentoring with personal development and engagement in a range of corporate social responsibility activities with the aim of producing better tradespeople, both on and off the job.
The ADS also provides the most exciting learning experiences offered to apprentices in Australia. Apprentices are mentored by V8 Superstar Jamie Whincup, embedded with the Triple Eight Race Engineering team on race weekends, and compete in the Komatsu Apprentice Kart Race.For the third consecutive year Whincup is Komatsu's official apprentice mentor, helping Komatsu apprentices nationwide develop valuable life and work skills. Jamie takes the apprentice group through his pre-race mental and physical preparation, the role of team work and the trust he imparts on his crew members to get the job done.
Groups of apprentices are welcomed into Triple Eight Racing's pit areas, learning the details of the race cars and asking questions in the team's mobile workshops.
Last year apprentices from Komatsu's Wacol and Gladstone branches were trackside for the Castrol Gold Coast 600 on the streets of Surfers Paradise. In New Zealand, apprentices from Auckland and Christchurch attended the ITM 500 Auckland at Pukekohe Park Raceway.
Second-year apprentice at Komatsu's Auckland branch Slaine Sharrock spent the weekend at Pukekohe fitted out in Triple Eight team clothing and working with the crew to help it to an historic Whincup/Lowndes 1-2 finish.
"I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to go back to the pits with the Triple Eight Race Engineering Team to not only watch but also help with the weekend's racing," Slaine said.
With Craig Lowndes blowing a tyre in practice and taking damage, Slaine assisted as the team worked overnight without pause to rebuild the car from wreck to race-ready.
"I was blown away by how hard this team worked together to get this daunting task completed in time for the race. I will never forget the experience," he said.
The Komatsu Apprentice Kart Race had its inaugural run following the Perth SuperSprint in early May when the 2016 apprentice group faced off against Supercar Team Championship leaders Triple Eight Race Engineering at Barbagallo Raceway.
Paring the mechanics of high performance back to their simplest level, the race has a simple set of rules. Two karts and two drivers sit on the grid. Four 'pushers' build each kart's momentum to a cut-off line, where they must release. The karts then race 400 metres downhill to the finish. Karts are tuned before being sent out again to improve on their last run.
Team Komatsu Apprentices clinched the win, blitzing the West Australian tarmac to beat Triple Eight with a lead of just 15 centimetres in the final round.
Whincup said he was pleased to grab the win and see the apprentices come together for the race.
"The Kart Race requires teamwork, analysis and a focus on constant improvement. It's a great place to get hands-on, work under a bit of pressure and bond with a close-knit team," he said.
"Billy-cart racing looks simple. When you get into it, winning is harder than you think."
Komatsu national apprentice development manager Gavin Manning said the kart race and the apprentice development system (ADS) producesengaged, confident and motivated people who want to achieve.
"The Apprentice Kart Race is great fun but it is also connected to valuable learning outcomes," he said.
"Equipment is only part of what we deliver to our customers. Komatsu develops people-powered technology and we are driven by success. Creating satisfied, self-aware tradespeople puts us in the best possible position to service evolving customer needs."
The Komatsu Apprentice Kart Race series will follow the Supercars Championship Series to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and involve Komatsu apprentices in each state.