Building Brighter Futures

South West Institute of Technology

The South West Institute of Technology (SWIT) endeavours to develop and implement only the highest quality training solutions for various industries across South West Australia by partnering with industry and post-secondary education institutions to truly understand the employment needs of the region and design training solutions to meet these needs.

South West Australia’s employers are fortunate to have a great resource right in their own backyards working to supply industry with highly skilled, well trained individuals ready to meet the needs of the ever evolving workplace.

SWIT is a regional vocational training organisation publicly funded by the Western Australian government, which provides authentic and valuable training opportunities that lead to employment. Under the guidance of Managing Director, Duncan Anderson, formerly of the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, the institute, with its extensive, modern facilities, is committed to being the training provider of choice for the region.

The South West region of Australia is highlighted by a traditional reliance on tourism with a smattering of mining, forestry, agriculture, and general small business operations. “The region isn’t reliant on one particular economy such as mining. It’s quite a broad range of industries,” explains Duncan.

Because of its reputation for preparing its trainees appropriately for the workplace and providing high quality, committed employees, SWIT serves as many as six thousand students each year and employs as many as four hundred lecturers, including casual staff across their six campuses. Perhaps most well known for its well established automotive training programs, SWIT has recently developed an all-new automotive facility with the capability to service even the largest heavy industry vehicles, including the massive vehicles common to the mining industry.

The institute’s light industry automotive program focuses on small car service and repair whereas heavy automotive has a heavy industry focus on larger machinery, including agricultural and mining vehicles. “This year we will have a new facility open, which is an auto training centre, which will put light and heavy auto in a brand spanking new facility.”

Duncan is clearly proud of this accomplishment as the new facility represents the leading edge of technology and automotive services and will provide an excellent opportunity for upcoming trainees and local businesses as well. The site has been described as one of the best new automotive training facilities in the state.

With this new facility, SWIT will be able to expand its offerings to meet an even greater range of industry needs as more students and industry partners are attracted by the capabilities now on offer. “We’ll maintain our very strong industry links and the auto program will grow due to the size of the facility and what we’re able to do.”

Duncan is investigating all options to ensure the faculty is fully utilised. Not only will the institute conduct training, but other groups will have the opportunity to use the facility. “I suspect that a lot of people will want to come and use it, which is an exciting development for the region.”

SWIT not only offers some of the best facilities and most well equipped campuses in South West Australia; Duncan also works to build strong relationships with industry leaders and other service providers in order to offer the highest quality and most appropriate skills training available, including an industry leading partnership on the Bunbury campus. “We work with Manea (Senior) College and Edith Cowan University,” shares Duncan. “We have a formal MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which acknowledges how closely we work together by sharing facilities, teachers, even fire fighting capabilities.”

One of the major outcomes of this close working relationship has been the development of the institute’s amazing health pathways training program. SWIT’s health training pathways begins while students are still in high school, and provides a training path that they can follow all the way to the highest level of professional study. The benefit to students of this partnership is that all previous levels of study completed through the program are recognised at each institution that recognises the memorandum of understanding, saving participants both time and money. “Our health training is certainly meeting what the industry requires,” says Duncan.

This sort of relationship and intelligent design of programs to meet the needs of employees and industry groups represents the care, passion, and experience that SWIT applies to all its training programs. Maintaining relationships amongst its two interest groups is key to providing authentic and relevant training. “If we lived in a vacuum, people wouldn’t meet what industry needs, so we would produce too many hairdressers, mechanics, or carpenters when other vocations are needed,” suggests Duncan, describing the importance of maintaining close industry relationships and allowing clear communication between partners. “We need to stay connected with industry to find the balance between workforce desires and industry needs.”

It is a matter of training the right people to meet the workforce development needs of the region; a task that Duncan takes on with a passion to better his community. In his role as Managing Director, he commonly works to build relationships and develop communication with the largest national employers and small businesses alike, while lecturers work closely with regional employers to create pathways for employment for their trainees. “There’s a whole lot of work before training begins to meet the needs of the customer.”

“There must be employment at the end, so what we do is organise employment for these students before training begins,” explains Duncan. “We work with local employers to find who wants to take on apprentices and trainees to ensure that there is employment available for each trainee at the end of each session.”

Some ongoing initiatives include “The Outback Academy”, a project developed by Mark Olive, internationally renowned chef of Aboriginal heritage who has worked extensively in Europe bringing the Australian cuisine to the world stage. The philosophy of the program is to bring a high level of training and workforce participation to young Aboriginal people of the region. The program will roll out with a focus on food preparation, beginning with a six week program focusing on cultural awareness and an understanding of what each participant has to contribute to the greater regional workforce.

The first step includes a chef training program, and it is expected the scope of the training will increase in the future. It is important to note that Mark Olive is partnered with Blue Energy, as they have identified this as an outstanding pathway for young Aboriginal students in Australia to move into employment in order to break cycles of generational unemployment.

Another project has taken the focus of reinvigorating rural communities through training in the agricultural skills most desired by regional employers. “The super town concept is to reinvest in rural Australia, to make communities that are important to regions more viable.”

One such rural area is the town of Manjimup, where SWIT has a campus doing terrific work developing valuable job skills. “There’s an allocation of funding to move into a small town to talk to local business owners to determine full time jobs that require skills training,” explains Duncan. To meet this end, a gentleman by the name of Ray Thomas has done a significant amount of work in the region to identify sixty fulltime positions in the agricultural sector which require skills training for employment. SWIT has committed to providing the training required to equip the region’s workers with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the local industry.

Since coming to SWIT in the role of Managing Director, Duncan has come to understand the valuable service he provides the region’s people, and he works diligently to better the employment prospects of the people of his community and has developed a clear vision for SWIT in the near future. “If you want to call someone about training, you call us,” he says proudly. “If we can’t deliver the training for you, we’ll help you find a solution and will partner with other providers and agencies to get the answer you need.”

SWIT continues to work to become the training service provider of choice for industry partners and for future employees alike by building strong relationships with industry partners and educational institutions. The organisation’s longer term goals including growing its delivery by ten per cent each year; Duncan expects to do this by working to refine SWIT’s business processes. He suggests this goal can be accomplished by having just one more student in each class. “How we need to structure ourselves to achieve this will be foreign to a lot of people because it is fundamentally different,” he says.

Furthermore, he sees opportunities internationally as SWIT’s reputation in automotive, health, and hospitality training grows in foreign markets.

Certainly, South West Institute of Technology is well positioned to meet the needs of regional industry as the demand for skilled labour continues to grow and the institute’s programs continue to prepare employees for the workplace by providing authentic, skills based training.

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January 18, 2019, 3:27 AM AEDT