Charles Darwin University’s customised literacy and numeracy program is helping to forge the latest Indigenous-driven manufacturing success story in the bush.
Business is booming for Papulu Apparr-kari Aboriginal Corporation, based in the central Australia town of Tennant Creek, which produces customised trailers for business and government clients.
Originally set up to train welding techniques to Indigenous people, the company’s first trailers were snapped up by local government and business organisations realising that their quality and heavy-duty set-up could handle tough outback environments.
Since that course in 2007, they’ve gone on to produce more than 20 trailers including car carriers, bringing new opportunities and skills to the local Indigenous workforce.
Papulu Apparr-kari Aboriginal Corporation CEO Karan Hayward worked closely with CDU to develop training that gave core literacy and numeracy skills and welding skills to new recruits.
A two-week pre-vocational literacy and numeracy program was developed around the physical construction of trailers, with lessons clearly showing the relevance of what students were learning. This was followed by a two-week welding block.
Karan said the link made it a success with all 14 students completing the course.
“It was an absolute success because the lecturer, Geoff Aitken, related to the guys really well and the students felt in control of their learning,” she said.
With the 12 trailers made and sold this year “already paying the bills”, Karan was confident another eight would be produced by December, giving the workers an opportunity for overtime.
“These guys are excited because they can get extra hours of work to fill demand and know it’s not just a CDEP position and that’s prestigious for them,” she said.
CDU Darwin-based welding lecturer Warren Corrick said he enjoyed the experience of working with such enthusiastic students.
“They’re a great bunch who are keen to learn and pick up the skills quickly and I really enjoyed my time here,” he said.
Warren’s backed up with a local role model and trained boilermaker Ian Rankine, who returned to Tennant Creek from Darwin to mentor local students.
“I love mentoring and giving these guys some skills and it gives them pride to see one of their trailers around town,” he said. “Their skills aren’t just limited to trailers and the organisation can now place them in different welding jobs across the Barkly region.”
Karan said pre-vocational literacy and numeracy courses provided a valuable training foundation.
“I’ve seen first hand the confidence these men are getting because they quickly apply what they learn on the job which is making a huge difference in the workplace,” she said.
With walk-in sales and enquiries from as far south as Alice Springs, Karan said she was confident the program and workers had a bright future.
“These guys are really proud of their trailers and I can honestly say mixing literacy and numeracy courses with trades is really important,” she said. “And when they see their trailers around town it gives them a real boost which is what it’s all about.”
For more information contact Papulu Apparr-kari Aboriginal Corporation on 8962 3270.