Market leader Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) has increased its investment in skills development for forklift technicians, and the industry overall, by hiring a further 15 apprentices.
The 2011 national apprentice intake means there are now 38 apprentices in the TMHA network, as well as 370 fully qualified technicians.
TMHA's National Training Facility at Moorebank (Sydney) recently hosted a two-day event for all the new apprentices and their branch mentors from across the country.
National service manager John Pearsall convened the event, which culminated in the apprentices receiving their tools of trade.
"Investing in the skills of our future technicians helps keep Toyota ahead of the other makes in customer service," he said.
"But we also see it as part of our role as the forklift market leader - to set the benchmarks for technician skills and industry safety.
"Toyota forklifts are designed and built for safety, with features such as the System of Active Stability (SAS).
"It's just as important that the technicians maintaining those machines' performance service them to the highest standards and observe safe practices in the workplace.
"The two-day apprentice introductory seminar also marked the launch of our new TMHA Portal, a web-based application where apprentice mentors can record and track the progress of each apprentice," he said.
"Toyota has always been at the forefront of forklift technician training in this country; in fact we pioneered specialist TAFE training for Australia's forklift technicians.
"The latest initiatives in tailored skills development for technicians include e-Learning training courses.
"Utilising the TMHA National Training Centre in Sydney and our onsite training facilities within the national branch network, our Toyota trainers provide factory-endorsed 'Step' training programs and continue to develop their training techniques.
"Last year, Toyota Material Handling conducted 53 training courses nationally to ensure TMH stays at the forefront of reliability and safety standards, and exceeds customer service expectations."
Courses include: Toyota Step 1, 2 and 3 factory-endorsed training; LPG and CNG installation; e-Learning; customer service training; pre-delivery training; and driver training and licensing.
John Pearsall said the overall goal of the National Training Centre was to create a career path that led the industry.
"Our Newcastle branch manager, Peter Wilson, is the perfect example of that career path, from the tools to senior management," he said.
"Peter won the very first Toyota Material Handling national skills contest as an apprentice technician in 1998.
"The national skills competition is designed to keep Toyota forklift technicians at the forefront of industry standards.
"This competition has been running in Australia for more than two decades and plays an important role in maintaining leading-edge service standards and workplace safety," he said.