WHEN apprentices start at Gerry Hanssen’s Hazelmere workplace they are handed a bucket, a hard hat, hi-visibility vest, goggles and instructions and sent out on to the building site.
Gerry Hanssen believes in investing in people and many of his former apprentices are now working as foremen on sites across Perth.
Mr Hanssen, who is also president of the Swan Chamber of Commerce, said he has trained 1000 apprentices since he started his business 20 years ago.
With 700 staff working for his company across Western Australia, it’s hard to believe he started the business with three credit cards and a $110,000 debt in 1993.
Mr Hanssen said while the cry from Perth builders in the current building industry downturn was “we can’t afford to train them” he said the catch cry on his sites was: “we can’t afford not to train them”.
WA Group Training Scheme chairman Charles Pace said Mr Hanssen was notable for his ability to drive and motivate staff, especially young people.
Mr Pace said he was also a person who wanted to make a difference.
“Gerry focuses on people’s strengths and qualities in all facets of the business,” Mr Pace said.
“I have never known any other company to come close to achieving the outcome he has reached. It’s extraordinary.”
Mr Pace said the WA Group Training Scheme was trying to target parents to get them to help get their teenagers into apprenticeships.
“It’s so important to be able to get them off the couch and teach them a trade when they can earn good money in the industry,” he said.
“Gerry has been very important in supporting that with the apprentices he has hired and trained and there is no other builder that comes close to training so many youth.”
Mr Pace said the Try a Trade Live works program aimed to encourage young people to do exactly that in lieu of university study, where they would acquire a debt.
“It makes sense; you can make a good living from the building industry,” he said.