The Fine Tuning Automotive Mental Health program is funded by WorkSafe through the WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to promote mental health and wellbeing and prevent mental injury and illness amongst vulnerable Victorian working populations. One of the identified vulnerable populations is Young Workers, and Tim O’Brien from Alcohol and Drug Awareness Australia (VACC’s partner in this program) discusses how Automotive workplaces can have a profound effect on these young people.
It has a long history of training, the motor industry. And it can be justifiably proud of it. It’s no small thing this long commitment to training, of backing young people fresh out of school, taking them on and patiently preparing them with skills, know-how and experience for a productive life of work.
Truth is, the benefits of this commitment has washed both ways. While it has given a leg-up to generations of young Australians, it is also responsible for a trusted, highly skilled and adaptable RS&R automotive sector. Australian automotive technicians are valued the world over.
Giving young men and women fresh out of school (or TAFE) their first job with an automotive apprenticeship is a defining and affirming feature of the automotive trades.
Some of course may arrive at workshop doors with a little experience gained through VET studies and school-based work experience programs. For many, their first experience of a busy workplace and the commitment required for the adult world will be with you, with your business, and your team.
They not only need to be trained in technical skills for the work they do, they also need to be invested in ‘the work ethic’: in workplace safety, dedication, loyalty, commitment to quality, honesty and accountability, teamwork and team spirit.
And so much of that depends upon you ensuring a caring culture and open communication. They will absorb and reflect what they see and what they experience.
The culture they find: the practices they’ll reflect.
Many of your new younger workers will have arrived anxious, uncertain and even slightly fearful of this next stage of their lives. They will want desperately to be accepted, to be valued and to ‘feel safe’ both physically and mentally.
They will also expect to have a clear understanding of the expectations that attach to their role (don’t we all), be given clear instructions and to be kept busy with a training plan. They will be trying hard to get things right.
They will also be trying to fit into the team, to feel they have a part to play. They will model their own practices and behaviours on the dynamics of that team, the respect shown in relationships, respect in dealings, the language used, and respect for difference.
Being properly mentored is key to getting this right. They should also feel safe in reporting any problems or negative behaviours directed to them or difficulties in managing the work. Those around them, their more experienced work colleagues, have a powerful part to play in ensuring that their experiences are positive, and that they have the opportunity to become valued members of the team.
Your younger workers will reflect your commitment to them, the quality of your mentoring, your patience, and the norms and standards that underpin your workplace culture.