Spotlight on farm machinery techs

The next generation of farm machinery technicians will soon have access to improved training opportunities at South (Bunbury) and Central Regional (Geraldton) TAFE. Source: Avon Valley and Wheatbelt Advocate

A memorandum of understanding has been negotiated between the Department of Training and Workforce Development, the Farm Machinery and Industry Association of WA (Inc) (FMIA) and Central Regional TAFE and South Regional TAFE, for the delivery of the agricultural qualification AUR30416 – Certificate III in agricultural mechanical technology.

The three-year course was initially flagged for a proposed Centre of Excellence at Muresk Institute, which has since been taken off the table.

Department of Training and Workforce Development director general Ruth Sean said Bunbury and Geraldton TAFE campuses were well suited to deliver the course.

“This is due to the specialisation of these campuses and their proximity to students and the availability of well suited, existing facilities and quality lecturing staff,” she said.

Central Regional TAFE has initiated the course, and according to latest figures from September 2016, had 27 students enrolled.

The course has been running at Geraldton, Merredin, Moora and Northam campuses.

FMIA executive officer John Henchy said the implementation was a welcome step.

“The MoU was to get the two colleges to work together with us,” he said.

“They individually register students but we wanted a combined effort to add to the focus.

“The apprentice training in the agricultural sphere has been terrible because the mining industry has dominated the training, and we’ve been treated, for lack of a better word, like second cousins.

“It is good news because it means that they are starting to focus on our industry, which is excellent.

“Without mechanisation agriculture stops and if you think about it, try putting in a crop without an air seeder, try taking a crop off without a harvester and we have technicians working on this stuff who are not being trained well at a starting level.

“They’re being trained well by the manufacturers on a particular product, but what we’re trying to do is bring everybody up to the same level before they embark on training on specific products, it’s absolutely vital.

“There has been no good training for a long time.”

The certificate III consists of 24 core units and 12 elective units and will train students to perform a broad range of tasks on a variety of agricultural machinery in the automotive retail, service and repair industry.

Mr Henchy said industry would work closely with TAFE and the Department of Training and Workforce Development to continue to develop the course to ensure it reflects today’s technology.

“When the courses are delivered they will be delivered in conjunction with industry to make sure that the students get the latest information rather than information that was designed five or six years ago,” he said.

“From now on they will be right up to speed.

“The support for the training courses will be done in-kind by the major manufacturers.

“They’ve been behind us loaning products, helping with training and donating components.”

South Regional TAFE managing director Duncan Anderson said course deliverance at the campus was still being planned.

“But we know there is strong interest from the agricultural sector,” he said.

“It may be something that existing mechanical apprentices would be interested in completing to provide them with exposure to the agriculture sector and widen their opportunities.”

“This innovative training option will allow students to complete the same course to the same high standards at either South Regional TAFE or Central Regional TAFE.”