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News : February 2020

Kerfoot Apprentice Mentoring: Supporting the whole person

Group photo of apprenticesKerfoot Apprentice Mentoring Program Leader Robert Bozinovski takes time to explain technical concepts to Kerfoot apprentices.

 

When Dan Lakos joined Kerfoot mid-way through his apprenticeship, he described it as a big change. He spent the first two years of his apprenticeship with a large company but was sent back to NECA Group Training due to a downturn in work.

From there he then found himself at Kerfoot; surrounded by people who were interested in his learning and development.

“Kerfoot takes a real interest in teaching you,” Dan says. “You’re encouraged to ask questions and no matter how busy a job is, they’ll take the time to show you how to do things properly.

“They always put safety first and encourage you in such a positive way. From my experience, as an apprentice with Kerfoot, I’ve definitely become a better tradesman, and now I’m even running a couple of smaller jobs for them.”

From humble beginnings as a small family business, Kerfoot has embedded their family values into the everyday to create a positive and nurturing environment for all staff, now known as the ‘Kerfoot way’, which guides the company culture and how it works.

Group photo of Kerfoot apprentices
The Kerfoot Apprentice Mentoring creates a supportive learning culture for apprentices.

 

The company’s mentoring program – available for all staff, from apprentices through to site teams and the office – pairs participants with an experienced team member to support and nurture their ambitions and career goals.

It was through this mentoring that Kerfoot saw the need and opportunity to extend a more specialised program to focus on apprentices. This led to the creation of the Kerfoot Apprentice Mentoring Program, piloted by senior Site Supervisor Robert Bozinovski.

Robert, a dedicated and experienced member of the Kerfoot team as well as being a natural mentor and father figure, was selected in mid-2019 to take on Kerfoot’s pioneering approach to creating an ambitious yet supportive learning culture.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to be involved with and guide our youth,” Robert says. “I have two kids in their early twenties so I’m very familiar with this generation growing up, and the difficulties they face.”

Robert connects via weekly site visits and chats to each of the 38 apprentices, creating and managing an individualised program to foster and enhance their abilities, needs (both in their personal lives and career) and learning traits.

This strong and nurtured foundation of development will support a resilient foundation in trade skills.

Demonstration of tool safety
The Kerfoot Apprentice Mentoring Program includes technical skills, safety, and personal development goals.

 

“We know through the National Electrical and Communications Association that there is a percentage of apprentices who don’t finish their trade and as high as 30 per cent may leave in their first year,” Robert says.

“Our apprentice program is about supporting the transition from school to full-time work, giving them the right tools both physically and mentally to enable them complete their apprenticeship, and go forward with confidence to be great tradespeople and potential leaders in the field.”

“We look at the whole person, we talk to them about the workplace culture, what Kerfoot is about and where we’re headed so they feel a part of that and want to stay with us in the long run.

“Being a part of the big picture has a major impact on apprentice retention and the quality of our work.”

As the program develops, it will include supporting team members to identify and move along career pathways, enabling apprentices to see how they can transition from learning their trade to being licensed and then moving into roles in leadership.

Robert says mental health support is a major focus for the team at Kerfoot and encouraging them to make use of the Employee Assistance Program is another way to further support our team

“Some of our apprentices have had to move to Sydney from regional areas, they’re away from family, they’re adjusting to full-time work, we don’t underestimate the impact this has and is another area we support them in any way we can,” he says.

Group discussion with apprentices
The Kerfoot Apprentice Mentoring Program is about providing the support for apprentices to be great tradespeople and potential leaders in the field.

 

Apprentice Ryan Irwin, a couple of weeks shy of his fourth year, says he “genuinely loves” working at Kerfoot.

“Everyone gets along and there’s a sort of mateship about the place. Apprentices talk to Project Managers and Supervisors, we all get along that helps you feel like you’re a real part of the job.

“You can always ask questions if you’re unsure about any of the work and you know that your Leading Hand will be there to help out, and to know we also now have Rob to call or go to at any time if I have any concerns is really great.”

“It also means you take real pride in your work. One of my favourite jobs was at the State Library of NSW and the current project and the prison at Windsor. When I finish my apprenticeship, I’d like to stay with Kerfoot, it’s a great place to work.”

Dan Lakos completed his apprenticeship with Kerfoot and is now a fully licensed electrician, he says from day one he was given the opportunity to learn and take on responsibility in the company.

“There’s a real family atmosphere and that makes people feel responsible and part of successful projects.”

“I value my experience and I’m keen to pass that on to the younger apprentices coming through. I make time to teach them and explain things. The results I see are that people advance pretty quickly.”