When talking to three AXIAM Metals staff it’s clear they have a few things in common - they are all passionate about machinery, have a lifelong passion for creating products, and they are driven to keep learning, currently undertaking work-based training at a later stage of their lives.
Based in Whanganui, AXIAM Metals is part of the AXIAM Group, a leading engineering company manufacturing complex components in plastics and metals for customers nationally and around the world. A genuine New Zealand success story. AXIAM Metals employs up to 60 staff who are integral to delivering manufacturing excellence, creativity, and design.
Skilled staff are critical to the business’ success. Production Manager Jeff Vigenser says AXIAM supports learning on the job.
“Often staff have worked in production for some time and developed good operational skills, but are missing some of the fundamental engineering basics that aren’t part of their schooling path. Work-based training gives them that foundation to build on and a broader view of engineering skills. We identify staff members who want to take the next step and grow themselves, and it secures skills for the business at the same time.”
Danica Te Huia, from the Te Āti Hāunui a Pāpārangi Iwi, is in her thirties and has been at AXIAM Metals for five years. She has recently started her apprenticeship, enrolling in the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering Level 4 programme. Interestingly, Danica’s career with metal started several years ago when she used to design and manufacture her own metal jewellery to sell at weekend markets.
Since joining AXIAM Danica has spent time working in the assembly team putting components together and in the dispatch area. She now is a machine operator responsible for setting the programmes up for the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine.
“Running the machine really interests me and I enjoy the metal work. I’m currently working on medical products, like components for sterilising units,” says Danica.
When she was in the process of enrolling for her apprenticeship, Danica sat all of her family down. With a partner and three teenage children, it was important to get everyone’s support. “When I started this journey, I was quite scared being that I’m in my thirties. But I’m driven, I want it and am willing to put the effort in.”
AXIAM Metals Quality Manager Mel Bourne explained “we recognise employees like Danica who are motivated, but also committed to doing the study. Danica takes a real interest in what she is doing, she’s a self-starter who is proactive with the machine she is running. The guys respect her on the floor, and she works well with everyone on all levels.”
Hamish McLachlan has been at AXIAM Metals for over seven years and is part way through a New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering (Level 4). Hamish left school to do an electrical apprenticeship before moving into manufacturing jewellery. Later, a role as a CNC operator/setter sparked an interest in the engineering industry. After a stint working part time, Hamish now works full time in the machine shop at AXIAM. Hamish is grateful for the support of senior staff who allocate time to help him with his studies while he balances life as a solo Dad.
“Time management is a new skill I’m learning. I’m a bit more patient than I was in my twenties. I’ve always had the practical so it’s adding the theory in behind. It’s a little easier than when you have just left school.”
Baden Steel brought over 15 years’ experience with him to AXIAM as a qualified linesman. He has been at AXIAM for two years and six months ago transitioned to operating an automated lathe where he is currently making devices and machinery for the food and medical industry.
Baden, like co-workers Danica and Hamish, is always up for a new challenge.
“I’ve never stopped learning my whole life. Machining is new territory for me though. I’m looking forward to getting qualified in mechanical engineering to be ready for the next step in my profession.”
To address our skills shortage NZ’s employers must broaden thinking about who is targeted for vocational education and training and how we train them.
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