One of the biggest support a competitor can have is from his or her employer, especially once selected to vie for a position in the NZ Skills Team that will represent NZ in international competitions.
Competitors will then have to make time for hours of training (some of which can be part of his/her actual job), participate in preparatory competitions inside and outside the country, and attend team camps. On top of their 8-10-hour daily jobs or apprenticeships. Thus, the importance of the supportive role an employer plays.
One of WorldSkills New Zealand’s very supportive employers is Dalton Electrical, one of the biggest industrial electrical service companies in Auckland.
We caught up with managing director Bruce Dalton and he can share about his experience with WorldSkills.
When and how did you first hear about WorldSkills?
BD It was when our apprentice, Daniel Berry, after winning the Industrial Apprentice of Year at the ECANZ Challenge in 2010, competed in the 2010 WorldSkills New Zealand National Competition and won gold.
How many competitors have you had from Dalton Electrical?
BD Logan Sanders will be our third WorldSkills Competitor. He won the Industrial Apprentice of the Year award at the ECANZ Challenge in 2016.
Daniel competed in London in 2011 and Jonathan McFall in Germany 2013.
What do you see as the value of your organisation of apprentices entering WorldSkills competitions?
BD At Dalton’s, our purpose is to be the first-choice electrical company as seen by customers and employees. One of the ways we set out achieve this is to train and train technically superior people. Qualifying for WorldSkills events on a regular basis is a way for us to measure not only our training, but our culture of encouraging people to be the best they can be.
We have an in-house training program and others have started to copy.
We also have operational benchmarking implemented every two years.
On personal development, each one is coached by someone they report to every 6-8 weeks. This works well, because coaches are those who know you know well. People outside of Dalton Electrical come in to train coaches.
We invest in people and that makes a massive difference. Winning competitions is a bonus.
You’ve also had employees who have volunteered as experts for WorldSkills over the years, does such benefit the company in any way? How?
BD I see the Skill Expert’s role more as a responsibility to the industry and our competitor, rather than what we get out of it. Skill experts and the business certainly benefit from the experience, but this isn’t our key focus.
What effect on your apprentices does the WorldSkills experience have?
BD One, on the skill level – All three competitors that we have had compete at WorldSkills have taken a giant leap forward in skill level and all three have now moved into automation engineering roles within our business.
On personal development – There is a lot of responsibility and pressure that goes along with competing at WorldSkills events. Once they return, the pressures of running a project or fixing a technical problem seem a lot less; they are able to think and function under pressure a lot better and have a lot more confidence.
As an employer of successful WorldSkills competitors selected for the NZ Skills Team, what are the implications for your business in staff preparing and participating in international competitions?
BD There is no getting around the fact that there is a significant cost that goes with supporting a competitor for WorldSkills. This is mostly in downtime, but also includes materials, tools, and training assistance.
What are the internal/external signs of participating in WorldSkills for your business?
BD I feel that WorldSkills is a good way of demonstrating internally and externally that we are a technically superior business with a training focus. That can only be a good thing.
Is WorldSkills experience seen as a positive CV attribute?
BD Probably, but we don’t plan on letting them leave. =)
How could WSNZ add value to your apprentices? To your brand?
BD Closer involvement with the preliminary competitions. For our brand, by making WorldSkills more known. We do our share by including WorldSkills’ logo in the calendars we give away each year to clients and at the back of our business cards.
ABOUT DALTON ELECTRICAL
A family owned and run company that began in 1966 by Dave Dalton. His son, Bruce Dalton, joined the team in 1991 after completing an industrial electrical apprenticeship and a New Zealand Certificate in Engineering (NZCE).
Dave provided the inspiration to establish the company and develop it into a successful electrical contracting business, while Bruce and the team he has built around him have taken to the next level – an electrical electronic contracting and engineering company servicing Auckland’s industrial area.
There is a definite team culture at Dalton’s, where staff help and challenge each other to perform at a high level. This positive environment has helped our industrial apprentices prove themselves to be the best in New Zealand on numerous occasions.
The team at Dalton Electrical has also been recognised for their automation expertise by winning the ECANZ Excellence awards in the automation project category on two occasions, and being national finalists for the same award on three occasions.