Stuck for good staff? Here's how Catten Industries found a solution

The Bayswater-based precision sheet metal fabricator and manufacturer of sheet metal components, started with one Burmese employee and was so pleased with his work ethic and attitude that through word of mouth, Catten now employs four language other than English (LOTE) employees.

Ian Cubitt, Catten’s Managing Director, said the company’s employment woes started not long after the closure of the tech schools.

“We don’t see many people who want to work in a factory and do manual work, and inexperienced people who do start, don’t last very long,” he said.

“On-site training is provided to everyone who joins, which is time-consuming for us, but it’s the only way we can get employees.

“Our first LOTE worker, Jacob, started in 2013. He was willing to learn and picked things up very quickly, was very polite and a really good employee to have.

“A few years later we struggled again with staff and I asked Jacob if he knew anyone looking for work. He did, and after an interview we took on this person. That made two. Further down the track we needed more staff and again went to our LOTE employees and successfully found two more of their compatriots.”

Not only does Catten provide internal ‘on the tools’ training, but it also assists in English tuition with dedicated two-hour weekly sessions during business hours provided by a teacher from the Wiseman Institute.

The LOTE employees all have different roles including machine setting, powder coating, welding and using the brake press. Most new employees start in powder coating and once their strengths are assessed they are moved into other areas.

“Now in the second year, these sessions are just for three of the LOTE employees to attend and as a result, we’ve seen a marked improvement in communication throughout the factory.

“If they had gone to normal TAFE or trade school, I think it would have been difficult for them and they would have got lost a bit. This onsite approach to apprenticeships is so far proving to work well for us.

“It’s been a great way to maintain our level of 30-plus staff and who knows, more LOTE employees may join our team. They are certainly a valuable part of our company,” Ian added.

Article from May 2019 edition of Knox Business Life