TOP WINNERS: Rockhampton's Charlie Cleary was awarded an Apprentice of the Year finalist and Riley Stewart the Trainers Choice Award winner. Pictured with winner Tom Bourne, Toowoomba.
TOP WINNERS: Rockhampton's Charlie Cleary was awarded an Apprentice of the Year finalist and Riley Stewart the Trainers Choice Award winner. Pictured with winner Tom Bourne, Toowoomba. Contributed

Learning a trade was meant to be for these fitters

TWO Rockhampton diesel fitters have been named among the best apprentices in not only Australia, but parts of the South Pacific islands as well.

Riley Stewart, 19, a second year apprentice, and Charlie Clearly, 21, recently graduated, of Hastings Deering Rockhampton were honoured at the annual Apprentice of the Year competition in Brisbane last week.

Charlie was one of seven finalists as an Apprentice of the Year and while he didn't win, it was an impressive feat considering it takes in apprentices from the state's peak training towns plus the Northern Territory, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Riley, a former Biloela High School graduate, won the Trainers' Choice Award for his commitment to training.

In 2017, he was one of 21 selected from more than 1500 applicants to train as a diesel fitter in the company's first apprenticeship intake.

"Apprenticeships have been part of my family for generations,” Riley said.

"My great grandfather was a carpenter, my grandfather a small engine mechanic and my Dad is a butcher, so I knew I wanted to do a trade when I finished school.

"Machine complexity and technology will continue to develop.

"Working on Cat machines sees us having to problem solve, so your knowledge has to be extensive.

"There is such a variety of work, from mining trucks and dozers to machines for civil construction and even the marine industry. I am loving it as much as I thought I would.”

The awards, which have been running 41 years, are a prelude to a a global competition by machinery giant Caterpillar to celebrate the very best in training.

Hastings Deering Chief Operating Officer Mark Scott said today's diesel fitters were critical to the mining and construction sector.

"They are the first responders to trouble shoot in economies where hundreds of thousands of dollars could be lost in productivity from a machine malfunction,” Mr Scott said.

"Hastings Deering's Training Centre of Excellence offers apprentices the very best in skills training which is critical when you are out in the field on your own.

"We value apprenticeship training and the importance and need to continually replenish the talent pipeline."

In February Hastings Deering will induct 75 new apprentices, the largest intake of apprentices for five years.

In the last 17 years, Hastings Deering has trained more than 1550 apprentices.



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