Noakes Group
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Investing in the Future

by Noakes Group | March 28, 2019

Gary Ferres with Noakes apprentices aboard HMAS Young Endeavour (from left: Gary Ferres, Ryan Saxby, Matthew Wattman, Brendan Cook, Alex McQuarrie, Ricky Kosztka)

The demand for specialist trade skills in Australia now regularly outstrips supply, with the profession of Shipwright currently recognised as a skills shortage trade.  The situation is becoming critical in the boatbuilding and marine maintenance industry, particularly in the more traditional area of timber boat restorations. Noakes Group Managing Director, Sean Langman, has recognised the problem and initiated a direct response.

“We decided to make a long-term investment in building up the skills base”, Langman says. “For years we’ve struggled to find enough experienced shipwrights to meet project demand at Noakes. It was time for us to be proactive and underwrite our own workforce future, and to support the industry in general.”

Noakes now have seven apprentices working at their boatyard on Berry’s Bay, North Sydney. The current intake includes mature-age apprentices who have turned from careers in the law and landscape architecture to learn the skills of boatbuilding and maintenance.

The TAFE trade course is a four-year commitment of one day per week. For the remainder of their time the apprentices work at Noakes under the supervision of shipwright manager Chris Church and skills mentor Gary Ferres. Classic boat enthusiasts will know Ferres for his craftsmanship on the restorations of Protex, Lady Hopetoun and Maluka and the build of the modern Ranger class sloop Vanity.

“I’ve been a qualified shipwright for 36 years. It’s terrific to have this opportunity to pass on my knowledge and experience to a new generation”, Ferres says.

“They’re keen to learn, and the TAFE course gives them a grounding in all the skills – wood, fibreglass, paint, boat design, drafting, marine plumbing, even welding. Then they come back to us at the yard for modules of practical on-the-job training. In the end, the whole industry has to benefit from this.”

One of Noakes Group’s key values is protection of the surrounding environment, and the mitigation of any environmental impact as a result of tasks undertaken onsite at  Berrys Bay. A component of the induction for new apprentices and employees at Noakes is to participate in a beach clean, which is regularly undertaken by the Noakes team in an effort to give back to the community and extend an appreciation of the environment to all staff.

Noakes Group has developed a series of in-house training modules for apprentices to ensure that their on-the-job training provides a thorough education on all aspects of boat building and repairs. The Noakes apprentice development program is proven to deliver exceptional results, with a past Noakes apprentice Ben Cormack, now a highly skilled and qualified Shipwright, being contracted by American Magic as part of the build team for the 36th Americas Cup campaign. Read more about "The Mule" here.


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