Workforce solutions: Competenz and Buckley Systems

October 28, 2020

Increasing global demand for its products has resulted in Buckley Systems developing its own talent pool, with engineering apprenticeships vital to the company being able to staff its CNC machining and fabrication operations - one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Buckley Systems’ precision electromagnets are used in the manufacture of more than 90 percent of the world’s silicon chips and its other products are used in particle accelerator-based cancer therapy – systems that will revolutionise cancer treatments of the future. Custom electromagnets are also produced for use in scientific research at major international universities and laboratories.

It’s big business, but Buckley Systems flies under the radar in New Zealand, with 100 percent of its production exported.

For many years, Buckley Systems has run an apprenticeship programme and among its 370 staff are 22 apprentices, 15 of whom are Competenz-supported engineering apprentices training in heavy fabrication, fitting and machining. Competenz also arranges and supports other workplace learners in limited credit programmes for general manufacturing, health and safety, gantry crane and leadership.

“Competenz helps us not only with the management of the apprenticeship programme but also assists us to identify funding to support the costs associated with managing large numbers of apprentices,” says Buckley Systems’ Chief People Officer, Dion Orbell.

“Apprentices are vital to our organisation. Last year we added more than 100 people to our company and to make sure the apprenticeship programme works, we must have the right ratio of senior tradespeople to apprentices for in-house mentoring. With our business expanding, we can’t always find talent externally to meet our needs. We realised that we needed to grow our people from the inside and we can do this with help from organisations like Competenz, which is developing many different engineering learning pathways to attract new apprentices. We’ve created the ideal breeding ground for trades engineers.”

Dion says Competenz is proactive in tapping into government funding models and can navigate changes to governmental policy that may affect the business. “They also keep our apprentices on track, ensuring they are completing the appropriate paperwork and modules. They’re a hub of information.”

Buckley Systems is highly regarded for its staff retention rate and conditions for both its learners and qualified workers. “We have high staff retention,” says Dion. “We reward our people well, through remuneration and benefits, our nightshift staff receive an extra week’s leave and we pay penal rates. After 40 hours we pay time and half, after 50 hours double time kicks in. We also have a subitised café for the team. Our culture is centred around developing our people and on-going career development. Retaining our staff also means our IP is kept within the business.”

“We believe we have the biggest and one of the best engineering apprenticeship programmes in New Zealand’s manufacturing industry – and we need it, as the company is getting bigger. Apprentices are helping Buckley Systems grow.”

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