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Treat apprentices like adults says TMC winner

The winner of the top gong in Australia for workshop managers says you only get out of your staff what you put in


Damien Allison has empathy for apprentices – after all, he was one.

That was more than 20 years ago, with big Tasmanian operator De Bruyn’s Transport, which is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Fast forward to last month’s ATA/ARTSA 2015 Paccar and Dealer Technical and Maintenance Conference, and Allison won the Craig Roseneder Award for Technical and Maintenance Excellence in the Workshop.

Part of Allison’s citation reads: “Under his stewardship, 12 warehousing trainees and 14 workshop apprentices have completed their qualifications, with many also excelling in the National World Skills competition.”

Damien Allison, 41, currently oversees five tradespeople and three apprentices, with the company trying to do as much repairs and maintenance as possible in-house.

De Bruyn’s fleet includes more than 100 trucks, 130 trailers, forklifts, light vehicles and a 500 tonne fish feed supply vessel.

The work is diverse.

“You can be dealing with an issue on a generator on a ship one minute, and a 1985 model DAF truck the next minute,” says Allison.

“You’ve got so much equipment to think about, you’ve got to know a little bit about a lot … to keep them on the road or on the water.”

Allison says he wouldn’t ask an apprentice to do a job that he hasn’t done, or wouldn’t do, himself.

“I treat them as adults, give them flexibility, give them a little bit of rope,” he says.

“Treat them as adults and you’ll earn their respect.”

“You’re there with them at the start of the day and you’re with them at the end of the day, whether it’s 5 o’clock or 10 o’clock at night, you’re there beside them, chipping in, and that what makes a good work environment.

“We’ve got a pretty young group of guys, and we’re all on the same page.

“We have a laugh and joke but when the work has to be done, we’re all there to do it.”

Allison says De Bruyn’s is big on training, including dual trades – for example a mechanic skilling up in boilermaking/welding as well.

He says such training helps with employee retention, which is going well, with several staff of many years’ service.

“It’s a big issue with every workshop,” he says.

“Good people are hard to find, and you only get out of them what you put into them, so the more effort you put into a basic apprentice and the better person you make him … you want to hang onto him for longer.”

Check out the full feature on the Craig Roseneder Award finalists in the December issue of ATN.


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