Innovative Komatsu Apprenticeship Scheme rolled out in NZ

In 2017, Komatsu NZ began engaging service technician apprentices through an innovative training system that not only teaches vital trade skills, but also business, life and personal responsibility skills and awareness.

Currently, six apprentices are part-way through their plant and equipment (level 3 and 4) trade training, said Matt Tosolini, Komatsu’s Technical Capability Manager, and who is responsible for apprentice training in New Zealand, and Komatsu’s Southern Region in Australia.

There are two apprentices at Komatsu’s Auckland branch, one at the Waikato branch, two at the Christchurch branch, and one at the Invercargill branch.

Matt said Komatsu’s Apprentice Development System (ADS) began in Australia in 2008, and since then has proven very successful in achieving apprenticeship completion and retention rates significantly above industry averages.

“Our apprentice completion rate over the past 10 years has been 80% – well above the average for automotive-related industries of 50%,” he said.

In addition to “traditional” on-the-job training and attendance at Polytech, managed through MITO, the ADS aims to give apprentices important life skills, including Toastmasters (public speaking), road safety awareness, and drugs, alcohol and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) awareness.

Matt said Komatsu’s rigorous apprentice selection processes, plus the focus on life skills and supporting participants throughout their trade training had contributed to the ADS’s historical high completion and retention rates.

“With our Australian apprentices, we are now seeing some of the longer-term benefits of the ADS, with those who completed their apprenticeships with us in the early years starting to take on supervisory and more senior roles,” he said.

“And we are looking forward to our New Zealand apprentices achieving similar advantages as they complete their training and move into permanent roles with the company.

“Komatsu firmly believes that apprentices trained through the ADS really represent the future of our service departments – and down the track other management roles.

“In Australia, already some are service department supervisors and resident service technicians throughout the Komatsu Australia region.”

Matt said an important element of the ADS from its inception has been its commitment to diversity – both in Australia and now NZ, with a mix of male and female apprentices, school age to mature age, and those with non-European/Pakeha or other cultural backgrounds represented among apprentices.

“In Australia, over the past 10 years, we’ve had 15 female and 333 male apprentices, while each year we’ve had mature-age apprentices up to at least 32 years old, and with our oldest being 48.”

Matt said the ADS had been good for Komatsu and had been good for its customers.

“Over the past 10 years – and into the future – we are producing tradespeople who are able to produce higher-quality work, have the skills to work on our advanced technologies, and have more effectively developed skills across troubleshooting, diagnostics and repair capabilities.

“And through our trade, business, life and personal skills training and development, we are producing more rounded individuals than a traditional ‘techie’, with excellent communication skills, and a better appreciation of how to cope with ongoing challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“We are proud to have rolled out this very successful program in New Zealand, which will allow our Kiwi customers to take advantage of the well-trained, highly skilled and very motivated service technicians that we are producing