For 18-year-old Owen Thornton, a job in the mining and quarrying industry was always in the back of his mind, but as he was still at school, he wasn’t quite sure how to get his foot in the door. “I’d been pretty intrigued by the industry for a while, but never really had a good idea of how to learn more about it and get a job,” he admits. “Then RockUp® launched last year, which was awesome, so I enrolled, and it turned out great.”

Owen Thornton completed MITO's secondary school programme RockUp®

Owen was the first student to complete MITO’s RockUp® programme, which offers secondary school students the chance to earn credits and a micro-credential approved by NZQA. Students complete theory courses via eLearning, then spend one day a week on-the-job to complete their practical assessments.

While a learning curve for Owen, it was also one for Daryl McMillan, Area Manager at Road Metals, Owen’s work placement in Kaikoura. “We actually learnt a lot from Owen and the MITO system about how we can make things better on our side,” Daryl says. “My quarry and logistics team loved having somebody around who wanted to learn all about the processes. The experienced team members get fantastic satisfaction in their own roles by imparting knowledge and skills.”

Daryl describes that Owen’s training covered, “the extraction, supply, crushing and delivery of aggregates and sand.”

Owen explains how effective the training was from Daryl and his team, saying, “it was really interesting and so much easier than sitting at a desk. The crew was really cool too. They’d explain how to do it and if you had any questions, you could just ask as you’re doing it. The one-on-one interaction was great.”

Road Metals, Owen's work placement in Kaikoura

Daryl elaborates how important it is for experienced employees to invest in and impart their knowledge on to people just starting out. “Investing in training is good for the industry and individual companies. Trained people have a greater job satisfaction, are more efficient, more effective and a lot safer in what they do, which is so important in these high hazard zones. The quality improves, the production improves, and the overall cost of the business actually decreases.”

“Owen was fantastic,” Daryl adds. “He jumped into anything. You’d give him the induction, training and put him through with one of our operators. After a couple days, he’d almost be ready to go solo.”

As Owen explains, each day learning through the programme varied. “Daryl showed me the whole operation so one day you’d be seeing how operators loaded up the trucks, and then the next day you might be working the diggers,” he says. “Eventually, you got to use the crusher on the quarry.”

While RockUp® is designed as an introduction to the industry, Owen’s future plans have definitely been inspired by his time at Road Metals. “I’m looking at getting my explosives ticket on the West Coast because that’s a good way to get into the mines overseas in places like Australia and Africa. Hopefully one day I can really get stuck into it.”

Although the first, Owen certainly won’t be the last trainee at Road Metals, with Daryl saying, “I’m wanting to bring more people through, so they can start to see there’s a solid profession and career in this industry. Road Metals have four of our team members undertaking their B Grade in March, two of which are from our Kaikoura Operation. After, our plan is to undertake a Grade A and Health & Safety Level 4 certification. Training is an investment in our team, our profession and clients alike. Literally everyone wins.”

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