HVTC 40th Anniversary - Dean Hunter

After completing a Cert III in Electrotechnology with HVTC and BlueScope in 2012, Dean Hunter rose up the ranks in his trade before finally biting the bullet to start his own business in 2016.

How has your business been going? In the lead up to COVID we had a period of huge growth within our company; we signed contracts with 7 Eleven, completed projects for Sydney Trains and were a part of the construction of the new Darling Exchange Food Precinct in Haymarket. The past 12-months however have been very slow but we’ve used the time to implement new systems, train staff and invest heavily into our team culture in the hope that things will return to normal and we will be ready and better than ever when it does. It has been a real opportunity to work on ourselves, both personally and as a business.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a significant increase in project tender requests and so we are starting to become very optimistic that the return to the ‘new normal’ has begun and that we will start to sow the seeds on the improvements that we have made over the past year. It has been an important reminder that adding value isn’t always related to sales/money.

Tell us about your journey from being an apprentice to a business owner. How did you end up where you are today? After completing my apprenticeship with BlueScope in Wollongong, I relocated to the Hunter Valley to take a position as a shift electrician with BHP in one of their Coal Preparation plants. After working there for two years, I took an internal transfer back down to Wollongong and continued my career with BHP. After a short period of time I was promoted to Electrical Maintenance Planner, where I was responsible for planning and supervising all on site electrical works for both internal and external tradespeople.

I really enjoyed this role, but I always had a passion for running a company of my own, so in 2016 I left to start my own business, Bright Group Electrical. I am now working as the Director of Bright Group Electrical, with 10 employees across both Sydney and Wollongong. We work for a mix of commercial and residential builders, Government/corporate clients and facilities management companies.

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship? I had originally wanted to do a Commerce Degree as I was always very passionate about business and management. While I had been accepted into university, I figured that getting a trade and having some work experience behind me would be a good move, I thought it would also allow me to earn a bit of money in the industry while I studied. As time went on, I found myself enjoying my work more and more and seeing the potential for career growth within my industry and decided to stick with it.

Looking back, how important was the training you received during your apprenticeship? I owe everything that I have achieved to the training and opportunities provided to me by HVTC and my host employer BlueScope. When I started my apprenticeship, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t the slightest idea of what an Electrician actually did or how to use a hand tool. My tradesmen and field officers were helpful, supportive and most importantly gave me opportunities to reach for bigger things. Opportunities like apprentice of the year awards, running challenging jobs on my own, training for higher roles or scholarships to undertake further study were all small wins that instilled in me a drive to always do better and a belief that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to.

Are there particular skills you learnt during your apprenticeship that you still apply every day? Honestly, the biggest skill that I took away was probably adaptability and people skills. During my apprenticeship I had the opportunity to move between departments, each time entering a new team, a new environment, new challenges and new bosses. It taught me to adapt, how to fit in to a team, how to talk to people, how to become the ‘new guy’ over and over again. It meant having to prove myself all over again each time. I believe that learning this has helped me so much throughout my career. It has taught me the importance of team dynamics and to stay humble because you will always find someone to learn from.

In your experience, what is the benefit of the apprenticeship pathway? Support and Recognition. I see so many people start their careers without going through an apprenticeship/traineeship and they seem to get a bit pushed aside by the day to day of the business. The benefit of an apprenticeship, in my experience, is that you always have someone pulling you aside every now and then to check on your progress, see if there is anything you need to help your learning, giving you performance reviews and sometimes putting you forward for industry awards. If it weren’t for the ongoing support and the nomination (and winning) of awards throughout my apprenticeship I doubt I would have had the confidence and motivation to pursue starting my own business.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to others? I definitely would, it’s a launch pad into so many amazing careers - a launch pad that’s filled with support, encouragement, guidance and opportunities.

Have you undertaken any additional training, or plan to? Since my apprenticeship I have undertaken a Diploma of Electrical Engineering as well as a partial completion of a Cert IV in Small Business Management. At the moment I don’t have any plans for additional formal training, but I am always looking for opportunities to learn from those around me and seek out people who have excelled in different fields.

How has your time with HVTC supported you throughout your working career? It not only provided me with a solid foundation of skills and industry experience through being placed with one of the Illawarra's most respected employers in my industry but also provided me the opportunities to go on to further refine and develop my skills as a leader and mentor through awards programs, scholarships and connecting me with World Skills Australia, whom I have continued my involvement with long after my apprenticeship.

What are some of your favourite memories from your time with HVTC? Attending the HVTC 30 year gala dinner, having the opportunity to promote HVTC at schools and career expos and winning the Mission Performance Leadership Scholarship, which allowed me to travel to the UK with the World Skills team to undertake a 2-week leadership and teamwork course.

What advice would you give to other apprentices or job seekers thinking about starting their own business? It’s hard work and long hours, but it’s possibly the most rewarding experience of your life. My advice would be to surround yourself with people who support your vision, a lot of people will doubt you and tell you that you should stick to your ‘safe’ job. Find the people who are there to help and cheer you on. Nothing exciting ever happens within your comfort zone.

Secondly, always remember that your team are and will always be your biggest asset, more important than any one client or any amount of money. If your company is going to grow, you absolutely can’t do it alone; you need a strong and flexible team around you that knows how important they are to you.

Dean Hunter