Customised training constructing futures in the NT 

Students Curtis Haines and Jarrod Swan on site working on the Dongas

Student Tyrone Lynch discussing plans with CDU lecturer Bob Benson and Peter Lynch, project manager, NT Link

An innovative Central Australian training program is helping to satisfy the needs of the region’s construction industry and the ambitions of six Indigenous students.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) has teamed up with construction company NT Link, federal industry body Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) and recruitment agency Job Find to fast-track enthusiastic Indigenous trainees into the construction and transport sectors.

IBA views the pilot project as a potential industry training model.

Six students are now into their first month refurbishing NT Link’s portable homes destined for NT communities while completing accelerated and customised qualifications from CDU.

Another trainee is completing fast-tracked program learning to maintain NT Links’ trucking fleet.

The customised training programs have resulted in highly productive trainees, excellent retention rates and a demonstrated example of education and industry working to achieve mutual outcomes.

CDU lecturer and local building identity, Bob Benson mentors the construction students and said the program addressed their cultural and financial needs.

“The university has designed a program to suit the young men, recognising their culture and the fact that many are married, have children and can’t afford to go back to an apprentice-based wage,” he said.

“They’re earning and learning from day one and are putting in the hard yards to achieve something which is great to see.”

And he has confidence in his students.

“I genuinely believe they could take charge of parts of this project because they’ve demonstrated work ethic, skills and leadership qualities that I wanted when I was working in local industry here,” he said.

Bob works with CDU trades central program manager (Alice Springs) Justin Busse to select units across CDU’s certificates in construction that are linked to the tasks of refurbishing the donga buildings.

The students are working towards specific skills sets and competencies in demand by the agencies involved, rather than learning general range of skill that may not be relevant to their current tasks.

This tailored training allows other competencies to be added as the need arises in their employment.

Eight students entered the course with the remaining six now emerging as role models for future Indigenous students.

Bob said their ability to lead and supervise future Indigenous students would be central to the program’s future success.

“They’ve told me they want to lead and teach others by running their own little businesses or supervising others within a few years,” he said.

“I honestly believe they can achieve this.”

He keeps the men motivated by rotating them through tasks and responsibilities.

Each student is encouraged to “take the reins” on a project or task and challenged to manage the others and find improved methods of their work.

“By giving them the incentive, and letting them run the show and standing behind the scenes, I give these guys the opportunity to show off their skills, pride and build their confidence,” he said.

“Most of these men are initiated so I treat them direct as men and leaders, and find I am getting good results.”

Students are assessed on site by trades central program manager Justin Busse.

Bob also spends a set period each week discussing the students’ work and achievements.

“There are always different approaches to completing tasks and I let them take the lead to reflect on what could be improved,” he said.

Project manager with NT Link, Peter Lynch said his company was impressed with the program.

“We are definitely seeing encouraging results with our students here at the yard because they are punctual, think for themselves and are keen to learn,” he said.

Trainee Tyrone Lynch (no relation to Peter) started the program two weeks ago at NT Link’s headquarters, learning about truck trailer maintenance, and said he was enjoying the experience.

“I’m learning a lot here, really enjoying my time and it’s busy here everyday and I’m always looking ahead to make sure the workplace is safe and tidy,” he said.

Director of remote training at CDU, Paul Fitzsimons, said training transitions to full-time jobs was a crucial aspect of the university’s training.

“It’s about students getting paid from day one and when they are competent, it’s going to be a seamless transition for them to enter the workforce,” he said.

“And we are starting to see results thanks to the backing and input of industry and IBA’s relationships that are as important to us as the relationships with our students,” he said.

Paul said he looked forward to delivering further positive outcomes for all involved.

“After building a relationship between the employer, employee and trainer, CDU believes in building on the strengths of both industry and the employees to maximise productivity,” he said.