SUCCESS STORY: Kristina Lambkin accepts an award for community leadership at the HVIA dinner in Brisbane.
SUCCESS STORY: Kristina Lambkin accepts an award for community leadership at the HVIA dinner in Brisbane.

Industry unites for recruiting new drivers

RATHER than sit around and complain about skill shortages in Australia, Cummins South Pacific decided to go out into the community and do something about it.

So successful were they in the first year that the company was presented with the national Community Leadership Award at the recent Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia dinner in Brisbane.

Kristina Lambkin, who has been with Cummins for five years as the apprentice program manager, is head of the company's Technical Education for Communities, now about to see its first students graduating.

"The TEC model is something that we do globally,” Ms Lambkin said.

"Australia has a very well-established schooling system and established apprentice system but we were still struggling to get good apprentices into our business and we do have a very significant skills shortage in our industry.”

Cummins takes about 50-80 apprentices each year and has about 200 working in Australia and New Zealand.

It takes its vocational educational program, TEC, into five secondary schools around the country - two in Western Australia, two in Queensland and one in Victoria - all in areas of high youth unemployment.

"We have jobs and we go to communities that need jobs to try to bridge that gap,” Ms Lambkin said.

The students, usually 16 to 17-year-olds in Year 11, work towards a Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation and in conditions that Cummins has brought up to industry- standard workshop levels.

"We also provide additional technical skills - basic hand skills and engine identification,” Ms Lambkin said.

"Cummins donated engines to all of the schools we partner with. And we also send technicians out to work with the kids in the workshop on those engines. So it is a bit more of a real-world experience.”

The program is not just school-based. Students are given the chance to have up to six weeks' work experience with Cummins and its industry partners as well as workplace tours "just to open their eyes to the options that are available”.

"We are trying to close that gap of an apprentice coming into a role and saying 'Oh, this isn't really what I wanted',” Ms Lambkin said.

"It gives them a real try-before-you-buy option.

"We encourage them to finish Year 12.

"We believe that is a really important component of the program. These programs run in conjunction with their normal schooling and we hope that it enhances it.”

While Cummins is the driving force behind the program, it brings together others in the industry - even competitors.

"As an industry, we are all suffering from the skill shortage at the moment and we need to be proactive,” she said.

"We're very driven by job outcomes, to get students through the program and into jobs in the industry.”

Among those who are participating in the program are Daimler Truck and Bus, AHG, Komatsu, Penske Power, PACCAR Dealer Network, Westrans, CJD Equipment, Bayford, Brierty, FDWA and Lindsay Transport.

"The program is still in its infancy and we will be having our first graduation this year,” Ms Lambkin said.

"We are committed to the five sites at the moment but we will be looking to expand in the future.

"It is important to realise that we are doing it for the community. It is not just a recruitment drive... it really is about working in those communities that need job outcomes but also job education.

"Some of these students may not come to work in our industry but we hope that by providing our life skills curriculum that they will have life skills that will take them into any career journey they want to go on.”