Engineering apprentices key to Winiata and Anderson succession plan

WA

30 August 2021

When ATNZ Account Manager Dave Bennett started his light fabrication apprenticeship as an 18-year-old in Levin during the mid 70s, he inadvertently became part of three generations of engineering training connected to Winiata and Anderson Sheetmetal.

Dave learnt his trade on-the-job at Douglas Healy Ltd, mostly from qualified tradie Stuart Anderson and senior apprentice Wayne Winiata. Working closely with Stuart for 18 months on the air conditioning system at the new Horowhenua Hospital, the young apprentice learned technical skills as well as valuable life skills.

“Stuart was a great teacher of his trade, a very patient man and a great mentor for life. He was very quiet and considered, and a real craftsman,” recalls Dave.

“He modelled what being a good man was about and often in the early stages of life, I would think, ‘hmmm what would Stu do’ and try and react the same way.”

When Dave became a father at just 19, he says Stuart’s tales of what he was doing with his own kids provided valuable guidance. Dave, and his current wife of 30 years, now have a blended family of six sons and 13 grandchildren who live within 10kms of them.

Stuart and Wayne started their own engineering business, Winiata and Anderson Sheetmetal in 1978. In 2017, after a successful 40-year business partnership, it was acquired by two former ATNZ apprentices hosted by WA Sheetmetal who Dave had mentored as an ATNZ account manager, Phill Winiata and Callum Henden.

A year after qualifying as a sheetmetal worker, Dave left Douglas Healy’s and carried on in the trade, eventually starting his own engineering business in Paraparaumu in the 80s. In 1998, he sold his share to his business partner because he says he didn’t want to get to 60 and think, ‘oh I wish I had done something else’.

Becoming an ATNZ account manager in 2004 saw him mentoring hundreds of apprentices – he also reconnected with Stuart and Wayne when he took over the Levin area for ATNZ in 2006 and became account manager for part of Callum and Phill’s apprenticeships.

The quality training Dave received from his early trainers was evident in the young apprentices he mentored 30 years’ later. “You can see Wayne and Stu painted all over those two in the way they do things and the way they work,” says Dave.

“They are pretty focused young men; they found their niche and they seem to enjoy what they do.”

After some years out of ATNZ, Dave rejoined the organisation in 2017 and began talking to Stuart and Wayne about their retirement succession plan, which he says can be difficult in a small town. By then, Phill and Callum had returned to the business after stints overseas.

“You can sell it to someone from out of town but there is no goodwill in it once you’re not there. From what I observed, the key to their successful transition was Phill and Callum dealing directly with the customers, so that the customers wanted to talk to them because they were the ones looking after their job,” says Dave.

“Then Stuart and Wayne cut down to work three days a week. It took 12 months or so, but the handover was quite seamless. Rather than one day it is owned by Stuart and Wayne, and the next day it’s owned by Callum and Phill.”

However, the story does not stop there, it came full circle last September with a third generation of apprentice training. Dave signed up 19-year-old Peter Lawrie-Coombes as an ATNZ apprentice hosted by Winiata and Anderson, more than 40 years after its founders first trained him. The journey carries on as the knowledge and passion for the engineering industry continues to be passed on through Kiwi businesses and the ATNZ apprenticeship system.

 

Photo (from left to right): Peter Lawrie-Coombes, Dave Bennett, Callum Henden and Phill Winiata.