PICTURED: Apprentices Beau Paff, Ben Shannon and Chris Ellis in the busy fit-out bay at Steber’s Taree factory complex.

While the manufacturing base in the Manning Valley may be shrinking, at least one firm is bucking the trend – Steber International.

In the past two years Steber have employed eight apprentices and a similar number of skilled workers to keep pace with contracts for new boat builds as well as ongoing major refits.

General manager, Alan Steber said: “It’s particularly pleasing to be able to offer the youth of our community an opportunity to gain qualifications as shipwrights that could set them up for life.”

“To-date, Steber International have engaged over 150 shipwright apprentices, many of whom have gone on to operate their own businesses, some in the marine industry, some in buses and caravans, some in home building and even some employed overseas.”

“The current apprentices are all leading towards being top tradesmen”, Mr Steber said, “as well as displaying growing confidence in communication and high self-esteem.”

“If you see a Stebercraft T-shirt walking down the street, congratulate him/her on being a well respected employee.”

Some comments from three of the apprentices:

Beau Paff (3rd year): “I like working with my hands. It’s great reading plans and bringing them to life.”

Ben Shannon (second year): “ I’m working on fitout and upholstery and now cross training on engineering. I want to learn everything but would then probably like to specialise in fitout – finishing off the Boats.”

Chris Ellis (1st year): “I’m loving it. There’s a great variety of work – engineering, electrical, upholstery, carpentry, All in the one job.”

In summing up Alan said: “We currently have 13 major projects underway, ranging from 38ft navy support vessels, commercial charter boat, right up to a 61ft fisheries research vessel. The timing is perfect.”