TECHNOLOGY and workplace rules may have changed but the need to find work for young people has been an ever-present challenge for Miles Coverdale.
The 61-year-old is soon to step down as Westvic Staffing Solutions chief executive, nearly three decades after he entered the job generation sector, reflecting yesterday on how much south-west workplaces have altered during his career.
Setting up what was then called the Western District Regional Apprentice Scheme in June 1985, Mr Coverdale was the organisation’s only employee and had just 13 apprentices on the books.
He was working as public relations manager at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education (now Federation University) when the apprentice scheme job came up with the Town of Camperdown.
“My background was at an advanced education college so it was quite a change to dealing with apprenticeships, but something I was interested in,” Mr Coverdale said.
“I’ve always believed there should be alternative pathways for people to learn vocational skills. Group training was a reasonably new concept at the time but business and council leaders in the south-west were prepared to roll up their sleeves and participate.”
While economic conditions in 2014 are decidedly flat, Mr Coverdale has witnessed his fair share of recessions and economic slowdowns, witnessing first-hand how hard it could be for school leavers to secure work.
“The early 1990s recession was a particularly challenging time for us,” he said.
“I remember spending some working days in the office until 9.30pm, calling 20, maybe 25 employers in order to secure a position for at least one person but when you finally get somewhere, it’s worth the effort.”
Mr Coverdale said apprenticeships were not as plentiful as they once were but it was not a south-west specific problem, with other regions suffering shortages.
“It’s fair to say we don’t get the number of applications that we used to receive and that’s part of a trend we’ve seen over the past few years. Having said that, there are still opportunities for resourceful people that are willing to work hard.”