Patton Engineering’s high school trades initiative solves skills shortage

An innovative idea to fix their company’s skills shortage led Patton Engineering to create ‘real-life’ trades training and apprenticeships for high school students that have inspired other organisations to do the same.

With more than 100 staff employed in Hawke’s Bay, they were struggling to bring on motivated, work-ready young employees.

Managing Director, Johno Williams decided to put a plan into action to help relieve some of the staffing issues on the business. Going to a local high school was the first step in bringing new talent into their business.

“Four years ago, we initiated a partnership with our local secondary school to help solve our skills shortage and recruitment frustrations. With an aging workforce I knew we needed to focus on vocational training – but in such a way that we bring them through work-ready,” said Johno.

They now connect technology students from Hastings Boys’ High School with tailor-made industry training, leading edge workshop equipment and pastoral care programme. Johno says the programme has allowed students to get excited about engineering and excel in the subject.

Starting out, Patton Engineering worked with the school, charitable trusts, and industry suppliers to secure over $400,000+ worth of equipment for the school’s technology department.

To support a training intake of eight students every two weeks, the business built workstations complete with welders for students’ learning.

What welding the students do in one day at Patton Engineering is equivalent to what they used to do in an entire year at School.

“We are fortunate to have a diverse group of boys getting involved in the programme. Because we have them in our workshop regularly, we can
follow their progress and nurture their skills. There are some real super stars,” says Johno.

“Our team are involved first hand in training the students. One reason this programme is so successful is because of the pastoral care provided by school, whānau, and a real-life work environment.”

Each year, the students have a chance to secure one of three to four apprenticeships with the company.

“To be successful, it’s vital the training we give these students is tailored to the needs of the industry.”

There has been interest from other schools around Aotearoa and similar programmes initiated. Both Johno and Salla Delport, head of the technology department at Hastings Boys’ High School, have visited these schools and shared their expertise.

Johno has big plans for the local programme which include taking an opportunity to replicate it at Hastings Girls’ High School.

This story first appeared in Pūrongo-a-tau – the Hanga-Aro-Rau Inaugural Annual Report 2021/22.

Pictured: Former Hastings Boys’ High School technology student, Manahi Goulton.