Boom drives training push in the regions

Email Shannon Verhagen
AFGRI Esperance 1st Year Apprentices Tom Stead, Sam Barber, 17, 1st Year Parts Trainee Liam Critchley, 17, and 1st Year Apprentices Jacob Jackson, 17 and Jayk Swann, 17.
Camera IconAFGRI Esperance 1st Year Apprentices Tom Stead, Sam Barber, 17, 1st Year Parts Trainee Liam Critchley, 17, and 1st Year Apprentices Jacob Jackson, 17 and Jayk Swann, 17. Credit: Pictures: Shannon Verhagen

There are a few more fresh faces in AFGRI Equipment’s Esperance branch this year, with a surge in demand for machinery seeing apprentice intakes boom.

Four apprentices and two parts trainees have joined the team this year — triple the branch’s first intake in 2018.

Staff numbers have also jumped from 28 to 39 in the same time frame.

It comes after a “significant” rise in machinery sales across the region — from Esperance to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Ravensthorpe — over the past 12 months.

Branch manager Brad Forrester said advances in technology, farmers striving to improve efficiency, and a shortage of farm workers had contributed to the boom.

Esperance AFGRI Equipment branch manager Brad Forrester.
Camera IconEsperance AFGRI Equipment branch manager Brad Forrester. Credit: Picture: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman

“There is a growth and demand on machinery as farmers are producing high-yielding crops and becoming some of the world’s best grain producers,” he said.

“John Deere have made some really good moves with their technology — the big one is My Operations, which is basically data analysis and can sync machines together so one machine is talking to another.

“Autonomy is also a big part of this progression.”

And it is not smaller machines flying out the door — big-ticket items have been making their way to new homes across the State, with the top three sellers combines, tractors and sprayers.

“As farmers want to be more efficient and productive, they will be looking for higher-capacity machines,” Mr Forrester said.

It has seen the branch’s staff numbers skyrocket, and the biggest AFGRI Apprentice and Trainee program intake since its inception three years ago.

“We started (the program) to make sure going forward there was an ag focus to heavy-duty diesel mechanic apprenticeships,” Mr Forrester said. “And it was an opportunity to train and invest in the people in the company.”

“The technology is so advanced in these machines.

“One thing about apprentices in Esperance is they get fast-tracked as they’ve been working directly with the machinery. Traditionally, we’d take on one or two apprentices.

“Last year we took on three as well as one parts trainee ... to keep up with the demand. This year we have four first-year apprentices and two parts trainees.”

There is a growth and demand on machinery as farmers are producing high-yielding crops and becoming some of the world’s best grain producers.

Brad Forrester

All six are local, which Mr Forrester said was great for the community and the team, having grown up in an agricultural region with an understanding of the industry’s importance.

“These guys are good quality young people who work hard,” he said. “They’ve done a really good job with the air seeding bars — which can take up to 200 hours to put together.”

He said the program would also pave the way for further career opportunities down the track.

“It also gives them an avenue to move within the company ... particularly into management,” Mr Forrester said.

“Sales is also very technical.

“Three of our four sales people are ex-technicians.”

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