Buckley Systems lays down apprentice challenge
Buckley Systems, manufacturer of precision electromagnets, is challenging New Zealand’s manufacturing industry to support larger numbers of apprentices.
The company, which is based in the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington, is expanding its number of apprentices from 11 to 20 by the middle of next year.
“We want to encourage other industries to get in and support NZ to the same extent,” said Sandra De Kock, Buckley System’s Head of People Development and Culture.
“NZ Industry needs people with more practical experience and knowledge,” she said.
Buckley Systems’ has a 36 year history of manufacturing ion implantation and particle acceleration systems in New Zealand, while resisting approaches to move production off shore.
With former technical institutes changing to more academic university type courses, the graduates being produced have strong theoretical knowledge but limited practical application, said Mrs. De Kock.
“There are a lot of smart young kids out there who don’t want to do university courses but have plenty of capability to undertake complex engineering challenges.”
Buckley Systems’ currently has 11 apprentices and expects to have 18 by the end of the year and 20 in 12 month’s time.
Mrs. De Kock said the expansion of Buckley Systems’ apprenticeship programme would support its future growth and ensure it had the right people with the right skills on board.
“We’re investing in a skills programme and looking at our needs 10 years down the road. We need skills for the future.”
As part of its apprenticeship programme, Buckley Systems’ is also running a pre-apprenticeship programme so potential apprentices can understand the various trades available and which one might suit them best.
During the six month course pre-apprentices get a taste of fabricating, machining, computer numerical control, electrical and the maintenance trades, which are four year apprenticeships with some formal study, usually at Manukau Institute of Technology.
Mrs. De Kock believes it is unique. “Nobody else does it like this. At the end of the 6 months the apprentice has already achieved a limited credit programme and has made an informed choice of career path. ”
For part of the six months the pre-apprentices also spend some time in Buckley Systems’ associated company, BSL Racing, building speedway race cars.
Buckley System’ has engaged a Technical Training Partner or “Apprentice Master”  for its apprenticeship scheme, Richard Protheroe who also works with, local schools,  MIT, Competenz and Skills New Zealand to coordinate and manage the programme. Buckley Systems’ has also allocated space for a Development Centre to support skills training and supports the completion of an additional credit programme for apprentices. 
“The broader skills base of our apprentices makes them more versatile,” said Mr. Protheroe.
The company’s founder Bill Buckley has a philosophy of not waiting for things to happen. “If we need it we do it ourselves,” said Mrs. De Kock. 
“Bill has proved it’s possible to carry out profitable high technology production in New Zealand.”
Buckley Systems’ has also encouraged qualified apprentices to seek broader experience elsewhere, often overseas as part of their OE.
“They come back with broader knowledge and critical thinking and can slot back into the culture here, because they know how the company operates,” said Mrs. De Kock.
100% of Buckley Systems’ production is exported and is used in semiconductor manufacture, oncology treatment facilities, medical and scientific diagnostic devices and physics research facilities.