Meeting of the minds
One of the reasons why field officers and apprentice managers enjoy their job is the diversity of the work. To find out more, HOUSING speaks to two of HIA’s team members based in the Hunter, Laurence Antcliff and Katie Lee.
Growing up working in the retail and banking industry for many years, Laurence found his calling when he took on a position with HIA in 2013. ‘My father was a plumber and my uncle was a builder so it’s in my blood,’ says Laurence, who’s now Apprentice Manager Newcastle.
Laurence gives apprentices more confidence and strength of character, which can be rare in this industry. This ranges from answering quick questions on the phone to spending face-to-face time to solve the most stressful, complex issues. ‘When a young apprentice is sweating and working hard onsite, they need resilience,’ he says.
Working closely with Laurence is Katie Lee, a field officer who looks after 55 to 60 apprentices, their host trainers and their supervisors. After working in the plumbing industry for nine years, she took on this position in 2018 and has never looked back. ‘It’s great helping the first-year apprentices put metaphorical tools in place to make them a better tradesperson and watch them excel and grow,’ she says.
Katie’s found that when an apprentice is handed back because a builder no longer has the capacity to continue supporting, she can quickly find another placement. ‘It’s important not to lose time on their training,’ she explains. ‘Solving these problems are really satisfying; apprentices always appreciate getting a job in a hurry.’
Helping host trainers
Engaging an apprentice through HIA’s Group Training Organisation (GTO) enables an employer to focus on their business. ‘HIA’s role is to manage the apprentice’s apprenticeship, allowing the businessperson to concentrate on running and managing their business,’ Russell says. ‘It makes employing an apprentice easy and we are their conduit to HIA.’
HIA handles the recruitment, administration, payroll, superannuation and record keeping of apprentices while managing their trade training. HIA also supports them with their work health and safety requirements.
As a field officer, Katie works closely with host trainers to make sure apprentices are meeting all their requirements, which can range from completing an exam to dealing with a conflict. ‘We stay in contact with the host and take care of any situation in a prompt, efficient manner,’ she explains. ‘Sometimes it’s just being a sounding board where they can call a spade a spade. Having thick skin in the role is an understatement; that’s something I learned from my days in the plumbing industry!’