The job is just the start of what makes Komatsu an employer of choice

In a tight job market, employers are looking for ways to stand out and attract the best candidates, but what makes a true employer of choice, where people don’t just take a job, but stay, grow and thrive? Colin Shaw, Komatsu Australia’s Executive General Manager, People and Strategy, says it starts with getting recruitment right, but it goes much further.

Komatsu Australia has won a number of awards for its HR focus and the positive experience their people enjoy at work. Most recently, it was named in the 2023 AFR BOSS Best Places to Work List.

Komatsu is in Australian Financial Review's BOSS Best Places to Work list

“Komatsu Australia is always proud to be recognised for our commitment to creating an environment that empowers employees to grow, excel and achieve their personal and professional goals. We really do believe that a supportive and positive work environment is critical to our success,” Colin says.

He believes people will join a company for a job that pays well, offers good conditions, and offers some opportunities to learn new skills. But the best employers want to do more than just get people through the door.

“We want our people to feel truly valued, to see real rewards for their commitment and to be able to achieve their goals both in and outside of work,” he says. “We want people to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work.

“We’ve put a strong focus on what really makes for a good workplace, from the basic elements like great facilities to addressing some of the less visible challenges, like creating career pathways for women and other underrepresented groups, giving our people time to do the things that matter to them, and walking our talk on topics like flexible working, bullying, and all the other things that can make the difference between a great day at work and one that is not so great.”

Getting it right, right from the start

Komatsu’s award-winning Apprentice Development System has revolutionised the way apprentices and trainees are trained and developed in the industry. It has earned widespread recognition, including receiving Silver for Large Employer of the Year and Silver for Employing Australian Apprentices at the National Training Awards in 2022.

“The way our system is designed means that by the time our apprentices complete the program, they’ve achieved a competency level that would take about another year of experience for apprentices trained in conventional programs. It really supercharges our apprentices’ careers and helps them reach their potential,” Colin says.

The apprentice program is managed through the Komatsu Training Academy, which has two state-of-the-art, purpose-built education centres, located in Brisbane and Perth, giving the company a strong presence on both the east and west coast.

Komatsu Apprentices with trainer

“Our facilities offer a highly interactive and technologically advanced learning environment, and our workshop labs are specifically designed to deliver hands-on training for both construction and mining class machines, ensuring that students gain practical skills and experience. Our training facilities also incorporate a number of simulators, so trainees can safely learn on a range of machines from small utility machines, right up to an ultra-class heavy excavator.”

The company currently has over 300 apprentices in training on the west coast and more than 200 on the east coast and plans to build the total to over 600 in the coming year.

Almost half the current WA apprentices are women and Komatsu selects apprentices based on potential, not age – a few years back they had a 47-year-old apprentice, and in the current intake there are apprentices in their 30s.

“Flexibility for us isn’t just about how you structure a workday, it’s about how you think about what makes a good apprentice, or a good mechanic, or any other role,” Colin says.

Komatsu also recognises the importance of equipping apprentices with important life skills, such as mental health awareness, public speaking, road safety and fatigue management, drug and alcohol awareness, and a variety of business skillsets.

Training never ends

The Komatsu Training Academy gives apprentices an incredible start to their careers, but it also supports continued training and upskilling for their people at every level.

“A big focus of the academy is upskilling people in their current roles, whether that be in leadership and management, operator skill proficiency development or customised technical training. We offer a mix of fully accredited courses and modules, along with purpose-designed operator, technical and management training,” Colin says.

Komatsu training machine simulator

“Both our training academies are backed by expertly skilled trainers aimed at building the workforce of the future. A lot of our training and courses focus on autonomous methods or using technology like Komatsu’s Smart Construction offering. The technology they’re learning about will ultimately help operators become more precise and accurate, and lead to better productivity on-site.”

Komatsu Australia recently doubled its annual training investment to $12 million in order to drive greater impact for apprentices, industry and the economy.

Families at Komatsu

Colin says recognising that their people have responsibilities outside of work is important.

“We understand the impact that happy and healthy families have on our people, and our community,” Colin says.

“If we can make it easier for our people to balance working with having children and raising their families, then of course we should. It means our people are happier and it means we’re able to keep those incredible employees who might otherwise feel they need to step out of the workforce to pursue their personal goals. It’s a win-win.”

Family holding a baby

The new Families at Komatsu replaces the company’s paid parental leave scheme and is a much broader program designed to provide benefits and support to all types of families, so everyone can thrive in the business’s inclusive culture.

Key elements of the program include 16 weeks of paid leave for the primary carer of a new baby, plus four weeks of bonding leave for the secondary carer; plus, special paid leave for our people who experience miscarriage or stillbirth.

There is also a structured return to work program to make it easier to come back into a role, and ongoing access to flexible work arrangements.

“We’re really proud of this comprehensive program which really is about our people’s wellbeing,” Colin says.

Inclusive means everyone, every day

Komatsu has led the industry by putting diversity and inclusion on the agenda. The brand has won a range of awards in relation for its Say Again? program to address casual workplace sexism, and for its industry leading training programs.

“We are always looking for opportunities to highlight the benefits diversity can bring to our organisation and address the barriers that may hold us back,” Colin says. “We’re doing very well in our entry level roles, with goals of 30-50% women, compared with an industry benchmark which is less than a third of that. We’re also making inroads on increasing female representation further up the corporate ladder, by thinking more openly about what the key skills are in some of our leadership roles, to enable us to recruit from a wider pool of applicants. That means, for instance, that we don’t just look to people with a technical background – which typically means men in our industry – for roles where the key skills are around communication.”

Komatsu has partnered with the Western Sydney Wanderers women’s football team as part of its diversity and inclusion program.

Komatsu Western Sydney Wanderers next to machine

“The strategies that the Wanderers are implementing echo our business strategies here at Komatsu. We are both focused on creating an environment that offers equality and opportunities for women because we understand and know the unique value they can bring our workforce and teams,” Colin says.

Goals aren’t always about work

Komatsu supports their people to do the things that matter to them, through initiatives like the Live Your Dream program which provides $10,000 grants for employees to support a not-for-profit organisation or charity of their choice.

Colin says the program is one Komatsu is proud to deliver for its employees.

“This initiative helps our people to support the causes they care about. It gives them an opportunity to do something special that they normally don’t have the provisions to do outside of work.”

To find out more about Komatsu and career opportunities available, head to