Attracting talent to electromagnet manufacturing

“You could describe us as a 45-year-old startup,” Buckley Systems’ Chief People Officer, Dion Orbell says. “We’re a learning business and this shows through all of our actions. We’re consistent and intentional in our approach to developing our people over time.”

Auckland-based Buckley Systems now employs nearly 600 staff and is the leading supplier of magnets in the semiconductor industry, Dion says. “The chips and screens in most of the devices that you own have been touched by a Buckley’s magnet as part of the manufacturing process.”
A big part of their success, Dion says, is due to a robust and supportive apprenticeship programme. “Our founder has been deeply committed to providing apprenticeships since he finished his own more than 60 years ago. Currently, we have 25 apprentices across a number of specialist areas. We accept adult learners as well as people coming straight out of school. Then we work alongside them to provide good support, good instructors and multiple streams of development.”


Buckley Systems’ Chief People Officer, Dion Orbell, is supporting manufacturing professionals with flexible work and tailored on-the-job training.


Dion says that, as part of a targeted campaign to bring more women into the business, a wahine Māori apprentice named Alisha came on as a fabricator and welder. “Alisha spent more than three years working with us and then became pregnant with her first child. She was so fantastic in her role that we were sorry to see her go on maternity leave, but we made sure she knew we were here to support her when she was ready to come back. When she did, we worked closely with her to create a working environment that would support her growing whānau. Now, she works shorter hours so that she can beat the commute traffic and fewer days so that she can have long weekends at home with her baby.”

Buckley Systems also provides additional support for kaimahi for whom English is a second language, Dion says. “We have close to 200 staff who are non-native English speakers. We’ve found that there are often no direct translations for safety-focused terminology that we take for granted like ‘hazardous’ or ‘carcinogenic’.” This realisation prompted Buckey Systems to develop English as a Second Language (ESL) courses specifically tailored to manufacturing safety which, Dion says, they have been running for several years.

“We did some reflection over the pandemic period and noted that several staff who had been with us for years had never received formal qualifications for their work in specialised areas such as crane operations and slinging. We worked with a partner to target our ESL courses to these specific qualifications, enabling those staff to earn their accreditation. For many, this was the first formal qualification they had ever received. We were already confident in their ability to do the work; now we just have that extra layer of comfort knowing that they have the qualifications to back it up.”

Dion is excited to see how Hanga-Aro-Rau continues to develop and support the manufacturing industry. “We’re really starting to see how the WDCs are providing a voice for business and learners; I know it’s taken a lot of work to get this far. I look forward to seeing how the collaboration evolves between Hanga-Aro-Rau, TEC and industry.

“I am also eager to upskill digital awareness across demographics and help change the narrative around manufacturing as a viable career option.

“Not everyone is going to go to university or become a programmer; we need to ramp up the drive for apprenticeship programmes and show potential candidates that they can find great career opportunities with ample pathways for progression.”







Buckley Systems’ Apprentice Alisha Taupo