Century Engineer PTECH 2017 participants with Andrew Sinclair upon receiving their welding certificates.

First year success for skills program

As the 2017 school year comes to a close, we are looking back at one of the most innovative programs run at St Patrick’s Technical College this year – the Century Engineering P-TECH collaboration.

The College joined 13 other schools from around the country as part of the Australian Government’s $5.1 million P-TECH Australia pilot program. P-TECH brings industry and education institutions together to help students develop science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills in a practical, real-world manner. The program aims to develop students’ knowledge within the STEM space as well as directly addressing industry needs and build future workforces.

StPatsTech introduced two programs this year with a third coming online in 2018.

  • Defence Force contractor Century Engineering worked with Year 11 Engineering students to develop their welding skills to the Australian standards.
  • PMB Defence, which builds the batteries that power Australia’s fleet of Collins class submarines, worked with Electrotechnology students to develop their battery knowledge and system skills.
  • Saab Australia, which operates in the advanced technology space with Adelaide’s defence sector, will mentor students from 2018 as part of the College’s new information technology course.

intertek-(8)rAndrew Sinclair, Business Development Manager with Century Engineering, sat down with StPatsTech to talk about the engineering program he helped drive this year.

“There is a skills shortage across the engineering trades and I hope programs like P-TECH can be part of the solution to address those needs,’’ Mr Sinclair said.

“It’s a great advantage for students to engage with industry at an earlier stage such as from Year 11.

“It’s also been very rewarding to see the students engage with the program and it was quite surprising how well they took in the information, especially in the practical stages.

“The students have really evolved and developed over the course of the program, which is fantastic to see.’’

Mr Sinclair, who was Century Engineering’s main mentor for the program, said he also enjoyed working with the teachers and giving them a better knowledge of the industry.

Describing his relationship with the College as “excellent”, Mr Sinclair said the flexibility and understanding of industry demands and timetables was a big element in the program’s first year success.

Northern Adelaide P-TECH Industry Liaison Officer, Toni Hartley, from the Skilling Australia Foundation, has been the bridge between the College’s teachers and industry to develop the three programs and hopes to see more roll out in the coming years.

Ms Hartley praised Century Engineering for its commitment to the P-TECH program across the whole company from management to the workshop floor.

“Century Engineering, along with StPatsTech’s other industry partners PMB Defence and Saab Australia, have shown a real commitment to their industries and the future workforce by investing their time and effort into developing P-TECH programs for South Australian youth,’’ Ms Hartley said.

“These programs have opened industry doors to the young people who have taken part and have served to give them a greater understanding of career pathways within the Defence industry space.’’

Major partner in the P-TECH program at StPatsTech is TAFE SA, which accredits the courses ensuring students are formally recognised for their skills.

Ms Hartley said bringing students, industry and tertiary education together in one program helped students clearly see the pathways open to them in trade and technical careers. One of the core purposes of the P-TECH program is to demonstrate to students the vocational or apprenticeship pathway to higher education.

“We are working hard to ensure young people understand the many interesting, fulfilling, and financially rewarding career choices today’s tradesmen and women have, especially within the STEM sector,’’ she said.

“All too often university is pushed onto students as the only pathway to a long and successful career but that is just not the case. Armed with a Year 12 education and technical and trade qualifications, a worker can enjoy a varied and interesting career with as much earning power and potential for growth as their university trained peers.’’

The Federal Department of Employment figures in December 2016 showed there was a skills shortage in South Australia in sheet metal trades workers and metal machinists (1st class).

The Labour Market for Engineering Trades Workers in South Australia report said within engineering trades, only 66 per cent of vacancies in Adelaide were able to be filled because workers lacked experience and skills.

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