Getting more female apprentices into bakeries was just one of the aims raised at the inaugural RDA Orana@Work Employer Summit hosted at Dubbo RSL Club last week.
“We are working quite hard on getting more girls into the industry,” Early Rise Baking HR manager Jill Campbell explained.
With the male employment rate standing at 85 per cent, the local company only has two female apprentices.
“We have only just employed the first female baker in the bread department.
“There’s no obvious reason for it, (young women) are just doing other things.”
When she employs young women, Ms Campbell has to take extra precaution about their needs in the workplace.
“I talk to them about working in a male-dominated industry, handling emotions, I also give them cautionary advice about sleeping with people they work with.”
As one of the afternoon presenters, Ms Campbell’s talk centred on ‘Supporting apprentices to success’.
“It’s quite flattering to hear that people think we have a great program,” she said. “We work hard day to day and don’t know the impact we have in the community.”
The Early Rise success story lies in commitment, communication and consideration. Many employees who started with the company have remained there for decades.
“Twelve of 15 tradesmen did their apprenticeships with us,” Ms Campbell said.
“Some of them have been there for 25 years. It’s a fantastic achievement to have retained these staff and we currently have 12 apprentices.”
The first step in any workplace is to have a company plan.
“If you don’t have one, you need to look at getting one.”
Employing young people has its own set of challenges due to their age.
“If we have any apprentices under 18, we invite the parents to come in. It gives them a good basis of what their kids are doing. We talk them through what might happen, the physicalities of the job, the responsibilities, look at the employer expectations. And try to understand generational differences.
“Treat them as you would like to be treated. And when they turn 18, have the talk about drinking, partying and drugs and the responsibilities of workers and colleagues. We are their employer, not their friend."
If problems arise, Ms Campbell advised employers to be willing to have that courageous conversation and to communicate with parents as well.
Communication is of huge importance, in every step of the apprenticeship.
“With TAFE rostering, make sure you’re aware of what modules they are doing. We are a lot different to other trades. We keep them at work and do TAFE at work, training and assessment will be on site.
“Also make sure trainers and trainees are mentored and supported. Offer them off-site training and train the trainer or supervisor courses. Not everyone is prepared to train and coach so they need help too.”
Ms Campbell advised to ensure the work team is well-versed in supporting trainers.
Employers need to ask: Do we have a training plan? Do we know what they need to learn? Has it been presented to the apprentices properly, are the trainers equipped?
Another important measure is to have a performance management system in place for employees, particularly apprentices who are most vulnerable in their first years at work.
“We need to communicate with them, let them know what’s important and why. It’s human nature to want to know how they’ve performed so let them know. If they are working safely, if they are on time. Any problems are often driven by a lack of training.”
Ms Campbell said the formative years of training are the most crucial and offering a broad skillset and opportunity within the workplace were important aspects of the learning process.
“Remember, you are setting them up for their careers, don’t just train them to be bakers. Get them to deal with people, give them some responsibilities – such as running a shift, communicating with customers.
And her final advice: “Treat apprentices like a valued member of your team. They have come to learn a trade.”