Western Vic welding bootcamps lead to jobs

Benjamin Skubnik
Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication Trade apprentice, Benjamin Skubnik is working as a welder at Gason after undertaking a Federation TAFE/Gason bootcamp.

Federation TAFE is teaming up with one of Western Victoria’s leading employers, AF Gason Pty Ltd, to find and attract welding apprentices and workers through regular welding bootcamps.

Gason in Ararat design and manufacture broadacre farm machinery, industrial and wood-heating products and are one of Australia’s leading engineering firms.

The week-long bootcamps give participants a chance to experience the practical hands-on learning that a welding apprenticeship is all about and get a step-up into the in-demand engineering trade.

On Day One students take a tour of the Gason factory and workshop, are introduced to key staff, and take on Augmented Reality (AR) welding training on a welding simulator.

For the next three days they travel by bus to and from Federation TAFE in Ballarat where they undergo an induction of the TAFE engineering facilities, have a go at metal fabrication and gas metal arc welding project work including making an anvil and a metal dice, and see a programming demonstration on a CNC brake press.

The final day of the bootcamp, back in Ararat, comprises a teambuilding exercise where participants are mentored by a Gason tradie or apprentice and take a machining group skills challenge, followed by an individual skills challenge, and a recap of the week’s learning before sitting for a mock job interview.

Federation TAFE Welding and Metal Fabrication Teacher, Tony Monagle, who has coordinated bootcamps and industry immersion days with Gason since 2015 says, “The kids are in awe of the workshop, and are really keen to be part of things. The bootcamps are a chance to develop skills, weld, and make something not dissimilar to what you’d make in the factory.”

“Some may not want to weld; some may want to bolt stuff together or spray paint. Gason are just looking for good candidates and if the candidates impress, they may get a job or an apprenticeship out of it. There’s an acute shortage of welders and the region is struggling to get a workforce. This is essentially a five-day job application We had two apprentices picked up from the last boot camp.”

Eighteen-year-old Benjamin Skubnik was one of four to attend the bootcamp in 2020 and is now a third-year apprentice with Gason. Living on a farm half an hour from Ararat, Benjamin travels to Ballarat each week to attend trade school at Federation TAFE.

“I always loved metal work at school and thought it’d be a good path. Then the careers person at school talked to me about the Gason bootcamp and suggested I should go, and it's been pretty good. It's a lot better – I like it a lot more than school.”

“A couple of weeks after the bootcamp, Gason got in touch me and asked me if I'd be willing to take on an apprenticeship. And I was thrilled so I said, yes. Now I'm a welder. I weld up all the seeder bins and various other parts for the air seeders. It's been pretty smooth sailing in the job so far.”

To anyone considering attending a bootcamp Benjamin says, “It was very enjoyable and I think it's a really good opportunity to get hands-on. Metal work is a very good career path, I reckon. There’s a lot of things involved, lots of knowledge you can gain and things you can learn.”

Tony agrees. “We’ve had great success with the bootcamps. They give valuable industry experience. We’ve worked with Ararat Rural City Council and we have had several School Based Apprenticeships (SBAT) with students from Stawell Secondary College progress as a result. We’d love to work with other schools in the region too.”

Benjamin is confident that completing the nationally recognised Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication Trade qualification and a career in welding will bring many opportunities.

“I just want to travel across the country and do different weld jobs to get as much experience as possible and become the best welder I can possibly be. I think there's a lot of opportunity there. Everyone is short on welders so it’s a good trade to get into. You can work pretty much anywhere and it’s good money.”  

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