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Assembling the mechanics of a naval shipbuilding career

21 August 2020

Mechanical Fitter Apprentices play an important role in the setup, installation, repair, manufacture and maintenance of equipment and machinery on naval ships.


From an early age Tom Leiner was interested in all things mechanical.


Growing up on a farm, Tom enjoyed spending time tinkering with motorbikes and machinery, gaining an appreciation for the mechanics of how things operated. So, it seemed an obvious choice to undertake a Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

After completing two years of his Engineering degree and learning about the theoretical side of engineering, it became clear to Tom that what he really loved was being handson. His interest in operating advanced mechanical systems was a key driver to him seeking an apprenticeship as a mechanical fitter – and he was offered an apprenticeship with worldleading aluminium ship builder, Austal.

“It was a great opportunity to gain a pathway to the frontier of future technologies and standards. There is a proud and longstanding history of naval manufacturing with lots of advancement opportunities within Austal and the fieldand I was excited to be part of that,” Tom said.

Tom is currently a 3rd year apprenticeand has spent the past three years maturing his technical skills on a variety of impressive vessel construction projects, including a 109 metre high-speed catamaran vehicle passenger ferry (Molslinjen Express 4) for export to Denmark, plus two types of Naval Patrol Boat (Capeclass and Guardianclass)delivered to the Commonwealth of Australia.He is currently working on the Hull 396 Queen Beetle.

Tom’s key responsibilities include fabrication and installationof mechanical systems, such as ride control systems and piping systems of main propulsion equipment coolingwith a high focus on efficiency, waste reduction and hazard management, all while maintaining the highest level of quality for the client.

What Tom loves most about his work is the versatility and wide range of skills he uses in his mechanical trade role.

Being in the mechanical and piping field,I have developed a large variety of interpersonal skills such asteamwork, along withproblem solving and organisational skills, andmanufacturing processes that rely on fine motoring movements and care, to name a few”.

A highlight of Tom’s apprenticeship so far has been receiving the coveted Austal Apprentice of the Year award.

In my first year of my apprenticeship, I was fortunate to get rotated through several departments within the mechanical trade, including machine shop, piping and heavy haulage, which enabled me to gain a deep understanding of advanced systems quickly.


I then became a lead operator of machining the jet cone facesand machining ride control systems mounts of Hull 393,” Tom said.

After machining was completed, I was part of the complete driveline/propulsion system installation and was also was on the commissioning team of the vessel. And for my work on Hull 393 I was awarded special recognition for reaching an early build stage, and the 2017 Austal Apprentice of the year award.

Having experienced both University and Vocational education, Tom is relishing his decisionto undertake a tradeand he has not looked back since. In fact, he highly recommends trades for others.

There are so many trades to choose from, catering to a broad range of skill sets,” Tom said.

And it’s paid learning, so you will be able to earn a wage and support yourself while being an apprentice, which is a huge positive. There’s also lots of room for progressionto a coordinator, a supervisor, a managerit’s really up to you as to which direction you want to go.

Tom is keen to stay with Austal and work in naval shipbuilding, continuing to hone his technical skills.

I would like to progress into more specialised work and if I’m lucky, work on commissioning more in-depth systems that have motion-control and propulsion.

The long-term outlook of Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry motivates Tom to continue to learn and keep up to date with the latest technology.

A big bonus with working for Austal is that most boats will be a unique build, so each boat will come with new challenges and systems, which keeps the work fresh.


Learn more

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities in Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry, join the national Workforce Register so we can connect you with one of our Candidate Engagement Consultants for your confidential career conversation.


Join the national Workforce Register and create your future shipbuilding career today.

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See also:

Shipbuilding: a fitting career for a fitter armourer from the Army
All is ship shape for school-based apprentice
From 40,000 feet up…to project management
Australia’s future shipbuilding engineers set to gain invaluable experience through Defence Industry collaboration