Digging in for career inspiration

By Paul Charman

Hands-on day with earth-moving machinery at Motat proves an enthralling outing for group of school students.

Logan Collings, left, shows Alistair McIntyre evidence of his passion for a career in earthmoving. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Logan Collings, left, shows Alistair McIntyre evidence of his passion for a career in earthmoving. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Logan Greasley plans to enter the mining industry as soon as possible and make all the money he can, driving the biggest rigs he can get his hands on.

The 17-year-old Rangitoto College student's ambitions moved closer to reality at a careers day held at Motat on Wednesday. And it was a careers day with a difference.

Greasley and about 30 other students were hand-picked to attend from Massey High School, Tangaroa, Rangitoto and Orewa colleges and Onewhero Area School.

"You didn't have to be an academic genius," said Motat education manager Paul Swift, "you simply had to be attentive, ready to learn and willing to make notes in the work book provided."

Organisers said the transport industry is getting increasingly complex and has pretty high standards of literacy and numeracy. But passion for the idea of driving a big rig, or heavy earth mover, seemed to play a big part in getting youngsters selected to attend.

The day was supported by Collings Earth Moving, Hiab Transport Auckland, MWN Civil, RJ Doughty Carriers, National Road Carriers Association, Waikato Digger School and the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency.

"We didn't drug test anyone," said co-organiser Alistair McIntyre, "but we had people from NZDDA to explain how the system works.

"If you get an opportunity to work for a transport company, participate in something you shouldn't be doing and then get drug tested, well, [he paused]. It doesn't matter how many qualifications you have, if you fail a drug test -- it'll be end of story."

But illegal substances seemed far from the minds of the young enthusiasts at the educational day. A tip truck, a Hiab and a couple of earth moving machines were on display and one of the diggers was available to drive. One of the stars driving it was Lynfield College boy Logan Collings, who said he was determined to become an earthmover, like his dad.

Well aware the business required a lot of paper work, he was studying at college to gain what he would need to succeed. Some of his Year 10 classmates are astonished he's decided to become a professional earth mover.

Some were still struggling with what to do when they left school, he said. But working with his dad over the school holidays had only underlined, "that this business is for me".

And judging from his skill at handling the digger, it was easy to picture a bright future. The 14-year-old showed us how he could operate the digger blade to pour coloured water out of a teapot, to fill up an open bottle.

"It was clear that the boys at the educational day really wanted to be there," said National Road Carriers executive officer Paula Rogers. "Well-run events like this one are important for the future of the industry. I know of companies where the average age of the drivers is creeping close to retirement age. While it's great to have experienced operators on the road, it's a worry for continuity."

The association had been working with Work and Income to source more drivers, but these efforts hadn't been very successful. Passionate applicants were preferred over those merely wanting a job.

Rogers pointed out that the museum environment was a huge advantage when it came to opening the minds to new possibilities.

"They got a sense of the long view of the transport industry and it wasn't wasted on them. They could walk around at lunch time and look at the exhibits, looking at how transport had changed over the years, it gave them an opportunity to think, take in and process what they'd been learning. The environment at Motat is far more conducive for learning than holding a careers day in a big hall."

Paul Swift agreed: Being held at Motat made learning about the transport industry an organic experience.

"The boys probably benefited most from interacting with young men a few years older than themselves, already working in the industry. But it was also good for them to move through the sheds and speak with retirees working on old buses and tractors. They got the big picture -- that some areas of technology change and others remain more or less the same," he said.

"They realised the men ... here, aged 65, were once 16-year-olds like them. And that one day they'll be the 65-year-olds telling a new generation all about technology we use today."

Alistair McIntyre's "Doug the Digger Road Show" encourages mainly primary-aged children to work at their literacy and numeracy to gain good jobs in the future.

"The transport industry is no longer an employer of last resort for those who didn't succeed at school," he said. "That was me and that was a lot of use, but it's no longer the case."

Health and safety requirements alone demanded a good standard of literacy, he pointed out.

One great advantage of bringing students alongside people in the industry is educating them that some aspects of youth culture are unacceptable out in the working world.

"The boys have to realise that a future employer will have zero tolerance of any demonstrations of bad attitude. We encourage them to shake hands, look the person they're talking to in the eye, turn off their cellphone while they're speaking and not put hands in pockets.

"We encourage them to fill out the work sheet we gave them ... while moving round different parts of the educational day. This was a measure of how much they were taking in and can actually be added to their CV."

Rogers says the transport industry is full of opportunity and looking for young talent. "You may come in as a driver but transport and logistics have so many roles. We need engineers, logistics people, administrators, managers and many other roles.

"In the past, during school holidays children got to ride in cabs with truck-driving parents. This often developed an appetite to enter the industry ... I know this from personal experience. My son rode along with me when he was little, and he later became a driver.

"But a lot of employers no longer allow this and the port doesn't allow passengers in trucks. One way or another we must accept the challenge of getting young people alongside those working in the transport industry."

Paul Swift said similar educational days would be held at Motat in future. "Ideally, we'd like to run two-a-year."

- NZ Herald

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