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A new direction for machinery

Published in Farm Weekly February 27, 2020

McIntosh Son Registered Training Organisation Agriculture Mechanical technology

McIntosh & Son apprentices attending the new McIntosh & Son Registered Training Organisation facility in the company's Katanning branch.

MULTI-franchise machinery dealership McIntosh & Son has broken new ground in the farm mechanisation industry. It is the first dealership to be registered as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) with specially-designed training centres at the company’s newest branches at Katanning and Wongan Hills.


  • Registered Training Organisation
  • Certificate III trade qualification
  • A different to approach education
  • Setting up apprentices for success

Initially, the McIntosh & Son RTO will offer a Certificate III trade qualification in agricultural mechanical technology, a Certificate II in automotive air conditioning, a ‘high risk’ licence for handling forklifts, etc, a first aid course and a dogging certificate (structural competency).

McIntosh & Son RTO coordinator Paul Berghella, who has spent the past two years designing the RTO, is working on a course to register it as a parts interpreter certificate with a Certificate III or IV accreditation.

“Our whole aim has been to design course-specific training to ensure young people are industry-ready,” Mr Berghella said.

“At the moment the education curricula does not cater to the demands of the agricultural sector and specifically the farm mechanisation industry where major changes in technology are constantly occurring.

“Our RTO is a unique beast and it will take the basic Certificate III to a new level of importance that can be the building block for a solid career in the industry. “And the beauty of our education program is that it will be evolving as we tap into knowledge from farmers, suppliers, manufacturers and professional services to enhance the development of our courses.”

Mr Berghella said he envisaged a Certificate IV would be offered as a pathway to higher education, such as a Masters in Agriculture. According to RTO head trainer Trevor Summerfield, who has 38 years experience in the automotive and heavy transport industries, the new RTO is “an exciting project”.

“So far we have a mix of 21 first and second-year apprentices studying with three two-week blocks of academic learning complementing on-job training at our dealerships with apprentices gaining hands-on knowledge from our experienced technicians and staff,” Mr Summerfield said.

“Our RTO will deliver 36 units of competency over four years, divided into nine a year.” Mr Berghella said the “birth” of the RTO was a direct result of a lack of skilled labour and difficulty attracting staff prepared to live near the company’s branches.

“Firstly we needed to recruit people from the regions,” he said. “Secondly we needed to demonstrate to them the opportunity of a career with the advantage of gaining skills and knowledge to progress that career.

“Thirdly we knew we needed a different educational approach that third party training was not provided to meet the contemporary needs of the industry.

“For example, there are no curricula on precision farming in mainstream education, yet it is pivotal to cost-effective productivity. Farmers are requiring higher skilled technicians to help them navigate the proliferation of products that are being offered.

“We see our role as a machinery dealer to ensure we can meet our customers’ needs and that’s why we are placing so much emphasis on training and careers in ag. “A field technician, for example, is a specialised job to service, diagnose and repair gear, especially during peak times such as seeding, haymaking and harvest.”

“So we need to have people ready for the tasks that are many and varied throughout each year.” Mr Berghella said achieving a Certificate III in a McIntosh & Son RTO course would automatically be recognised by the industry as a high competency level.

“Career paths in machinery dealerships are real and exciting,” he said. “You could go from working in the warehouse to some other job that appealed to you such as service, parts, sales or administration.

“And you would be trained as your career progressed by people with a wealth of industry knowledge who have lived and breathed what they teach.”

Mr Berghella said the McIntosh & Son RTO would engage with industry partners, where appropriate,to enhance course curricula for students.

“It may mean inviting specialists in hydraulics or electrical or even customer relations, etc,” he said.

“Students will have our complete network of support to help them achieve a professional level of competency for whatever career path they choose.”

The almost “mind-blowing” on-job training experience would also involve the company’s call centre. “Say, for example, a fourth-year apprentice is working on a hydraulic issue in a customer’s shed and has a query about a problem he or she is facing,” Mr Berghella said.

“The apprentice will be equipped with a laptop with all the technical information needed for every machine worked on.

“Plus our service department can be contacted for further information or the call centre can become involved if there’s a diagnostic issue or repair procedure.

“Our call centre is run by experts with the required technical skills to assist so there’s a whole new level of professional service that is available not only to our apprentices but also our customers.

“We can be confident the apprentice will get the job done and the customer can be reassured that the best professional service is available to handle the issue. “And the spin-off from our RTO training is that our graduates will not only have gained technical skills but also interpersonal skills to assist them in the workforce.

“That sort of service cannot be replicated by other training centres.”

The Katanning RTO will cater to apprentices working in the company’s southern branches, including Esperance and the Wongan Hills RTO will be the centre for the company’s northern branches.