It is not just saddles that Kent Saddlery at Stanthorpe do well, with the company taking out a major award in this year’s Darling Downs and South West Regional Training Awards.
The Saddlery, established in 1988, won the Small Business section in the awards announced online for the first time on Friday night and will now go through to the Queensland State finals to be announced this Friday with the national awards later in the year.
Production manager Josh Furness said the award was recognition for seven years struggling to ensure there were actually apprenticeship courses available for the leather-working industry and while the award wasn’t completely out of the blue it was still nice to be recognised.
Last year the business finally succeeded in having Leather Production recognized as a Queensland Apprenticeship- pioneering the avenue for saddlers around Queensland to gain training and employ apprenticeships.
Such was the company’s level of commitment to having apprenticeships that Josh and his wife Leah wrote six of the units that Qld Leather industry apprentices now study. The company employs eight apprentices of all ages including three who have just come out of school.
“It would have been nice to have a gala dinner I think they normally have a pretty big event but it is a bit different this year,” Josh quipped.
“We weren’t really surprised to win because of the amount of work we’ve put in to get to where we are but it’s a nice surprise.”
Kent Saddlery’s commitment to training in the industry has been evident in the past few years, with the company working closely with the Department of Employment, Small Business, and Training, QMC, Queensland Agricultural Training College, and Tactile Learning Centre to enable saddlery apprenticeship training in Queensland.
“In 2013-14 we started to look at employing apprentices – at that time we could get an apprenticeship and certificate three in leather production,” Josh said.
However he said after two or three years the Victorian group providing the certificate folded and they began their battle to find courses and accreditation for apprentices.
He said while leatherwork is an old traditional industry, the saddlery has also embraced modern technology to help in the process and bring the industry into the modern age.
Now in its 59th year, the Queensland Training Awards recognize individuals and organisations striving and achieving success, best practice and innovation in vocational education and training.
With 14 categories, the awards aim to showcase all that is great about VET in Queensland with categories for apprentices, trainees, vocational students, teachers and trainers as well as training providers and employers.