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Royans attract young staff through apprentice academy

Royans recently focused on attracting and retaining quality young staff through a two-day apprentice academy

Throughout all members of the Australasian bus and coach industry, there’s one issue that is on everyone’s lips. From operators and OEMs to suppliers and stakeholders, the entire sector is being affected by the same challenge – the skilled worker shortage. 

With the problem still ongoing, heavy vehicle repairer Royans is using its own network to find a solution. While many bus companies are continuing to try recruit more people, Royans recently held a special event to focus on its current crop of apprentices.

“Roughly 12 months ago, the business decided to survey its staff about what they think of the company, with our apprentices submitting some of the weakest responses,” Royans CEO David Church told ABC. 

“This made us think that we needed to do something different and separate to focus on attracting and retaining apprentices in our business.”

With Royans focusing on how best to curb the impacts of the skilled worker shortage, it made a conscious decision to focus on investing in the future by attracting apprentices first. 

The tangible result of this focus was Royans’ first apprentice academy. The heavy vehicle repairer convened its entire apprentice workforce in Melbourne, where it then provided a two-day event for apprentices to learn more about the business and future opportunities that lay within the company and the industry.

With the Royans business containing decades of history, Church says the key goal was to ensure apprentices learnt more about the company they were working at, the family values that underpinned operations and the opportunities and pathways that lay ahead of them once they completed their apprenticeship.

“We wanted to let the apprentices know what the business is all about and its 80-year history to date,” Church says.

“There’s a lot of history for apprentices to understand with Royans, so we wanted to educate them and then show them that there’s a career path for them beyond their apprenticeships.

“We want all Royans apprentices to be certain that we have growth opportunities available for them to rise from an apprentice to a supervisor and then even a branch manager or CEO – all of those opportunities are before them.”

The apprentice focus comes at the right time for Royans, according to Church, as the business’ strong ability to retain staff means plenty of workers are now getting closer to retirement. This next phase means there’ll be a plethora of job opportunities available at Royans for apprentices and trade workers to swiftly move through the ranks. Another key pillar of the apprentice academy, held in March, was to inform apprentices of the opportunities that also lay outside of their particular branch. 

Royans hosted its first apprentice academy

While many apprentices may only be thinking about the opportunities available at their branch, Church says company speakers at the conference discussed the other areas of the business, such as in sales, safety and procurement, that they may also want to pursue.

“We then also looked at Royans’ presence in both Australia and New Zealand, showing them the moves they could make if they wanted to continue working for us at one of our 27 other branches,” Church says.

“We’ve seen staff move from Melbourne and Sydney to places like Perth and Townsville, as well as across to New Zealand, while still working for the company.

“We used the conference to let our apprentices know that those relocation opportunities are also available if they wanted to move around and live elsewhere while they’re young.”

While Church didn’t know what to expect of the first apprentice academy, he says the event consisted of “two really good and productive days”. He says he has plenty of gratitude for the apprentices for how they conducted themselves in travelling to the conference and listening to presentations made.

The first afternoon then switched from conference presentations to a team building exercise, where apprentices were split into groups and built billycarts for Act for Kids charity before testing them out. Awards were handed out for speed, quality and presentation, allowing apprentices to network with each other throughout the light-hearted activity.

Royans’ apprentice academy also received great industry support, with sponsorships from industry representatives like NTI and PPG allowing Royans to hold a worthwhile event. The company also brought in guest speakers from heavy vehicle brands such as Hino and Kenworth to discuss wider opportunities in the transport industry. 

“Out of our 70 apprentices, roughly 60 attended, so it was a wonderful turnout,” Church says.

“We now want to look at attracting more apprentices – we’re setting up an apprentice program at all of our branches where we can focus on attracting and retaining good young workers local to each branch.”

The Royans leadership team, headlined by Church, isn’t intent on bathing in the afterglow of the successful apprentice academy. The heavy vehicle repairer has quickly switched to reflecting on and reviewing the event to decide what it will do for its new apprentices next year. 

Having received plenty of constructive feedback from their apprentices at the event, the focus at Royans now switches to incorporating this knowledge into its daily operations to ensure more and more young workers continue their journey at the business.

“We’ve seen great staff retention in the business and we think it’s a wonderful place to work at,” Church says.

“There are also amazing opportunities available at our numerous locations, so we want to bring in more apprentices to motivate our staff and provide opportunities to more workers.

“Our apprentice academy came about due to the immense growth at Royans over a short period of time, so we want to see a continued evolution of our workforce.”

On top of its apprentice focus, Royans is also celebrating the 80-year anniversary of the group this year. 

Put all of these pieces of the puzzle together and Royans is hopeful of establishing a healthy and successful future full of emerging skilled talent.

“Everything we’ve done in recent years, from our smallest shops to our largest sites, is helping prepare the future of our workforce,” Church says.

“This focus won’t stop – it’s an ongoing process. There’s still lots of work to be done by our managers to ensure we provide the best opportunity for young workers in this industry.”

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