From unemployment to an apprenticeship

From left to right: Jake Willis, Chris Hope, Anita Godfrey

From left to right: Jake Willis, Chris Hope, Anita Godfrey

When original career paths don’t go to plan, new opportunities can be unexpected and take you in a completely different direction.  But that doesn’t mean that those new opportunities are not interesting and well worth the discovery.

 This is exactly what Chris Hope in Ballarat found out after completing year 12.  Throughout his schooling Chris had his sights on becoming a graphic or games designer. After matriculating he qualified for a tertiary course, he commenced working in a pub and doing welding for and small engineering business to pay his way through university. At this point Chris’s plan to achieve his dream career had seemed to be perfectly falling into place.

After university Chris decided to move to Melbourne to capture opportunities in his dream job. Eight months later of pounding on the doors of opportunity Chris returned back home realizing that there were very limited job availabilities in the field.

Picking up work as show performer at Kryal Castle, Chris enjoyed his work but after two years there was insufficient hours to support himself anymore. Trying to find his new direction in life he turned to the skilling and employment services organization, MatchWorks. At this time not knowing what to expect Chris’s career was going to totally change.

Through MatchWorks, Chris was placed onto a Jobs Victoria program that saw him working on a mine site, but again found himself out of work.

MatchWorks then talked to Chris about a ‘boot camp’ skills program about to be run through SEM Fire and Rescue (part of the Varley Group). He heard about the possibility of the program leading to an apprenticeship. Discovering that Chris has had a lifelong interest in electronics his new career direction on ‘winning’ an apprenticeship in Auto Electrical was proving opportunistic.

After a month on the job and officially an apprentice, Chris is really happy with the variety of work and the 4-day working week. He is keen to gain a real understanding about why things are done the way they are done in job role and confident he will gain this through his time at Kangan TAFE.

MatchWorks Employment Consultant, Anita Godfrey is delighted that Chris has successfully landed the first apprenticeship with SEM Fire and Rescue. “Chris has been someone who always presented well. The team was impressed with his desire to work and his work ethic,” Anita said.

SEM Production Manager, Jake Willis sees the ‘boot camp’ program as a success. Jake said, “While we would ideally have liked to be able to employ others from the program, at this stage Chris is the only one to be offered an apprenticeship. The on the job component of the program allowed us to see how each participant fitted in when considering their punctuality, communication and cooperation with our employees.”

Although at times career paths can be frustrating to make the fit, through being open to options, willing to give things a go and persistence, that amazing career opportunity can be just around the corner.

Building a global presence

Historical photo 01 aged.jpg

Varley has been providing innovative services and solutions for 133 years and congratulates Engineers Australia on its 100th anniversary.

Today Varley bears the name of its founder George Henry Varley and remains one of Australia’s oldest growing privately owned companies.

 It was 1886 when George H Varley formed a plumbing and boiler-making business in King Street, Newcastle. As Newcastle was a port city, Varley took the opportunity to work in the marine trades, repairing and replacing faulty gear and equipment so the ships could load their cargo and head back to sea. In 1912 a brass foundry, machine and blacksmiths shops were added opening a second workshop in Darby Street. The King Street plant was later closed and sold in 1925.

 In the mid-sixties, Newcastle City Council decided to relocate all the industrial businesses out of the city to the north of the city to create a green public space, today known as Civic Park.  The relocation came at an opportune time as the business had grown and become cramped for space. 

 So it was 1964 when the company moved to a new 2500m2 factory site on 10,570m2 of land at the corner of Parker and Everett Streets, Carrington. The new facility allowed for expansion into heavy engineering and construction activities. At this time the emphasis of Varley was changing and diversified from marine specialisation to broader industrial manufacturing.

 By 1989, Varley was employing 220 workers with the heart of the business located at Parker street, Carrington and corporate offices at 1 Elizabeth Street, Tighes Hill. Eventually the Tighes Hill head office was sold and moved to the Parker Street site so the engineers and project managers could be directly involved in the development of the projects they were designing.

 The late eighties saw ‘Varley Shelters’ created to fulfill the company’s initial inroad into the Defence market sector.  By 1990 a contract had commenced to design, manufacture and fit-out ruggedized and lightweight military maintenance shelters for the Australian Army.

 The ‘Varley Commander’ fire truck contract of fifty five vehicles for NSW Fire Brigades was obtained in 1999 and was the first time in the company’s history saw Varley’s team build a special vehicle from design through development, prototype and production of the cabin, chassis and fire-fighting body with pump outputs of 3500 to 5500 litres per minute. This project supported Varley’s move to the current head office and main workshop at Tomago in 2000. The company has gown immensely to be Australia’s largest manufacturer of Fire Appliances and Ambulances.

 Although the expansion into the defence and vehicle markets have soared with contracts, Varley is still locally recognized for its trades in the marine sector. The most famous being for their efforts with the M.V. Sygna in 1974, Pasha Bulka 2007 and more recently the Y.M Efficiency.

 Varley’s drive to be a leading engineering and manufacturing company in Australia has come with many feats over the years. The numerous projects have had Varley build strategic partnerships with Defence industry primes like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman through the JSF F-35 program as a supplier for deployable mission systems, repair and maintenance, training and simulation capabilities. This partnership has Varley continuing to be an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

 Today Varley’s diversification continues to service its customers with thought-provoking design, manufacture, fit-out and maintenance of world-class innovative solutions. Varley has achieved global recognition as a supplier of first-class engineering, manufacture and support services to the defence, aviation, transportation, marine and energy industries including rail. 

 Varley has built a strong national service network of 15 facilities employing approximately 820 people, whilst their international facilities in Indonesia and the United States employ 195 and 150 people respectively.

Original article included in the feature liftout in Saturday August 10, 2019 Newcastle Herald, ‘Celebrating 100 Years of Engineers Australia’.

Varley hosts an event to activate the support to motivate youth’s career choices in Manufacturing


To drive a positive direction and affect the youth in choosing a career in manufacturing, Varley hosted an information event at their Yennora site on Friday 3rd May with education influencers from the Western Sydney area.

 As Sydney is experiencing a current lull in hiring skilled and non-skilled workers in manufacturing roles, Varley’s Yennora site was the perfect location to demonstrate the opportunities that youth can be inspired by when selecting an exciting and rewarding career. Focusing on the Western Sydney area for manufacturing careers Varley’s HR Manager, Jan Dobbie presented a strong view about the issue and that Varley is not the only company that is open employer.

“I showed VET teachers what Varley do in manufacturing and spoke about how they can help inspire school students to consider a career in the manufacturing industry and in sectors like Varley”, said Jan Dobbie, HR Manager-Varley Group.

 People who attended the event were Amy Greenshields from DET NSW RTO section, Julianne Stanton the Education Project officer of Generation STEM CSIRO.  Other attendees were predominantly VET teachers from all around the Sydney metropolitan and Central Coast regions.

 Jan’s mission moving forward is to be involved in the Western Sydney area through the TAFE, Cumberland Manufacturing Centre and working with schools and other providers that support young people and influence career choices.


Varley develops a new solution to answer Sydney’s Manufacturing crisis in hiring workers

Many manufacturing companies in Sydney have been feeling the pinch when looking for interested and skilled workers to fill various roles. Varley’s Yennora site has not been an exception in that category when putting out the search. 

 “The usual method of advertising the positions on job sites, posting on social media and on the company website in recent times has proven to be a struggle in obtaining candidates for our Yennora site” explains Jan Dobbie, Varley’s HR Manager

 After exhausting the usual avenues Jan set out to create a new immediate solution to find the employees that were needed. The strategy was, if she can’t hire them then training them into different roles was an option.  This concept took flight when TAFE NSW and job agencies, Workskil and SSI (Settlement Services International) jumped onboard.

 The final program consisted of 1 full week and one day a week for 3 more weeks in addition to the TAFE tuition of four units from their Auto manufacturing package. The hands on experience of 3 days over three weeks saw the participants practicing the skills they learnt. The subject units studied was safety, tools, engineering drawings and quality. All classes and job experience was conducted onsite at the Varley Yennora site. This enabled Varley to see how the prospective employees adapted to the Varley culture while they worked as a team and demonstrated their agility.

 Varley’s employment program solution has been a success in securing 7 candidates on the program with 6 being offered full-time employment in the stores and production roles. Each new employee was provided with a basic toolkit by the job active agency. The program participants’ ages ranged from 21 years of age up to 60 years of age coming from a of mix of Australian and International backgrounds.

 Although this initial program was only an immediate solution to employ workers; this has been used as a case study with future plans to work the program through schools and TAFE to benefit all manufacturing companies in the Cumberland (western Sydney) area.


“Getting this program set up took a lot of effort. We had support from the Commonwealth Dept. of Jobs and Small Business, Training Services NSW, TAFE NSW and numerous service providers. We had a few anxious moments but as we neared the end of the 4-week program, the results have exceeded our expectations. It is a great result for us, for the referrers and of course for the participants who have worked really hard to earn a spot with us.” explains Jan Dobbie, Varley HR Manager


“It has proven to be a great way to find employees where we have previously struggled to get people in the door.” said Jarrod Riley, Varley Supervisor

 “The Varley program has created key opportunity in the manufacturing industry and job opportunities for our job seekers.” expressed Penny Evans, WorkSkil


“If you are going to do a program like this, be prepared to learn something new.” said Dirk Reinke, participant and new Varley employee


“The program was great, fast paced, great quality with end products that are brilliant.” said Adam Hall, participant and new Varley employee


“The program is definitely worth it. You learn a large variety.” said John Hoy, participant and new Varley employee.

NSW/ACT Youth Conference invites Varley Group as guest speaker in support of improving current job support systems


Represented by Human Resource Manager, Jan Dobbie, Varley Group took an inspirational interest in the NSW/ACT Youth Conference organized by the Australian Government’s Department of Jobs and Small Business Wednesday, 3rd April.


As an invited guest, Jan took the opportunity to speak about key actions that Varley Group undertakes to assist young people make successful transitions from school to the adult  world of employment.


Varley Group prides itself as a company that effectively demonstrates a track record working with various youth careers programs like VET, Port Stephens P-Tech, PaTH, RDA Hunter STEMships and short training programs for unemployed people within the Hunter, Sydney and Ballarat areas.  These programs have proven to be vital in the identifying passionate and committed young people for hiring as apprentices and trainees.


Varley believes we all have responsibilities to showcase what our work is, what career opportunities are available within our organisation and industry.  “Helping others ignite their passion and ultimately for making a society that provides economic and social benefit for all.’ States Jan Dobbie.


The conference brought together stakeholders in supporting young unemployed people to identify how to improve the current support system. The event shared many inspirational stories and case studies combined with an open mind to structuring future service models in order to skill and prepare our youth for careers and work.

RGM Maintenance Townsville wins Daimler Dealer of the Year

TOP DEALERS: (Left to right) RGM Maintenance Company Directors Greg Jackson and Russell Newman were presented the Daimler Truck and Bus Dealer of the Year award by Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific President and CEO, Daniel Whitehead. Contributed

TOP DEALERS: (Left to right) RGM Maintenance Company Directors Greg Jackson and Russell Newman were presented the Daimler Truck and Bus Dealer of the Year award by Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific President and CEO, Daniel Whitehead. Contributed

Original Article: Big Rigs Magazine

RGM Maintenance Townsville has been named the 2018 Daimler Truck and Bus Dealer of the Year at a black tie event in Melbourne.

The dealership has played a crucial role in the North Queensland market for Daimler Truck and Bus, setting new standards of customer service in the region.

"Daimler Truck and Bus had a remarkable year across Australia and New Zealand, but it was evident something particularly special was happening up in Townsville and the surrounding area,” said Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific President and CEO, Daniel Whitehead.

"Anyone who deals with RGM Maintenance Townsville would realize they are having a hugely positive impact on the Daimler Truck and Bus network across Australia.”

Mr Whitehead presented the Daimler Truck and Bus Dealer of the Year award to RGM Maintenance Company Directors, Russell Newman and Greg Jackson, who had first aspired to join the Daimler dealership network some 15 years earlier.

Mr Whitehead praised the RGM Maintenance team for its commitment to both the sales and support aspects of the business.

"They are also some of the most passionate and hard-working people, who happen to be some of the nicest people you will ever meet,” he said.

Daimler Truck and Bus brands Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso also presented a range of awards at the Docklands event including metro and regional dealers of the year.

Mercedes-Benz presented the Metro Dealer of the Year award to David Reid of Sydney's Stillwell Trucks, while Christchurch's Prestige Commercial Vehicles was announced as the runner up.

The Mercedes-Benz Regional Dealer of the Year was awarded to Dean Mavin of Mavin Truck Centre, Kempsey, while RGM Maintenance Townsville was named the runner-up.

Freightliner presented its 2018 Metro Dealer of the Year award to Greg Gardiner of Daimler Trucks Huntingwood, while Christchurch's Prestige Commercial Vehicles was announced as the runner up.

The Freightliner Regional Dealer of the Year award was presented to Cameron O'Hara of Daimler Trucks Toowoomba, while Daimler Trucks Newcastle took out the runner-up title.

Fuso presented its 2018 Metro Dealer of the Year award to Kirstin Hoskin from Daimler Trucks Somerton and Daimler Trucks Brisbane came in second.

The Fuso Regional Dealer of the Year was presented to Chris Spence from Daimler Trucks Sunshine Coast and Murwillumbah Truck Centre was named runner-up.

All three brands announced a series of individual awards that celebrate all areas of the dealerships, from the sales showroom through to the service areas and parts counters.

Avalon 2019, An eventful aerospace and defence exposition


Tuesday 25th Avalon Airshow (Australian International Airshow and Aerospace and Defence Exposition) kicked off for 2019 with something for everyone. Over 600 trade exhibititors, advanced military hardware, corporate jets and air displays didn’t disappoint the thousands that attended the event.

 Crediting diverse capabilities and stance within the Defence industry today, Varley made its mark being part of the Defence NSW stand, F-35 Expo Chalet with Lockheed Martin, also CTSi (Varley USA) on the Maryland USA stand and VRA (Varley Rafael Australia) exhibiting with Rafael.

 “Avalon means business, and that means bringing the world to Australia and taking Australia to the world through high-quality delegations and guests who are here to see what Australian industry had to offer,” Avalon 2019 chief executive Ian Honnery said in a recent airshow newsletter.

 “The number of high-level Air Chiefs and industry players reflects this.”

 “A record number of Air Chiefs have been invited, adding another dimension to Avalon 2019 as an international marketplace and the ideal location for Australian industry to reach out to the world.”

 Avalon 2019 has created and ensured many business connections for the Varley Group in addition Varley was a shortlisted contender to win the Avalon 2019 Innovation award for the Mudbucket (Open System for Avionics Integration).  Varley USA CEO, Matt Hederstrom presented at the Technoilogy Symposium on ‘Navigation System for GPS Denbied Environment’ and ‘Mudbucket – Open System for Avionics Integration’ awarding him with the best presentation award.

New US Naval drone technology to be shown at Avalon

The US Navy’s latest drone technological upgrade will be shown for the first time in Australia at the Avalon Air Show by the Varley Group/CTSi and L3 Technologies today.


The joint venture completed flight-testing recently of a newly developed integrated communication and navigation system for drones and military aircraft operating in highly contested and GPS-denied environments.


Designated the Enhanced Link Navigation System (ELNS), the prototype was built under a US Navy $8.7M Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase III contract and flight tested at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport near Patuxent River, MD.


“Our team put ELNS in the air in less than 18 months. It worked the first time and every time during 15 flights which included 152 approaches,” said Ian Gallimore, CTSi Chief Technology Officer.


“ELNS provided area navigation to replace GPS at ranges in excess of 50 nautical miles all the way through landing. Pilots from Airtec, who provided turn-key flight test support, said during test events, “These needles are… money,” and “ELNS is as good as any instrument landing system I’ve flown, I’d fly it in the weather.”


Martin King, Navy Project Manager, added “ELNS is scalable for unmanned aircraft in all Groups, from those needing high integrity like MQ-25, to small unmanned aircraft on tight weight budgets. ELNS is the first system to bring GPS-denied navigation capability to small UAS. By combining significant investments in related fields to create a whole new capability like this, ELNS takes Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) for air vehicles in a compelling new direction.”


ELNS utilises L3 Technologies’ waveforms that defeat adversary strategies to detect and disrupt allied signals, using waveforms that are essential in communications-denied and GPS-denied environments


“There is a strong fit between what ELNS brings and the threats that our forces are facing today,” said Tom Sanders, CTSi Chief Executive Officer.


Varley Group, CTSi & Air Affairs form strategic “Mudbucket®” Partnership

Varley Group and CTSi to upgrade the mission capabilities for Australian LearJets

Avalon Air Show (February 2019) – Air Affairs, Varley Group & CTSi and have announced a strategic “Mudbucket® Partnership” to upgrade the mission capabilities of Air Affairs’ LearJets.  Currently, Air Affairs provides red air support and target towing services for the Australian Defence Force.  These enhancements will afford the Air Affairs flight crew unprecedented situational awareness during the exercises, therefore improving the training & operational outcomes for the Australian Defence Force.


CTSi, through Varley Australia, will design and install an avionics upgrade package, based on the proven “Mudbucket®: Solution for Avionics Integration” technology that will display the position of other aircraft in the vicinity so the pilots will be able engage with those aircraft in a more realistic scenario.  The situational awareness will also dramatically increase the level of safety during the training operations.


“We at Air Affairs will now be able provide a level of training for our customers that we’ve not been able to before,” says Chris Sievers, CEO of Air Affairs.  “We will still provide a reliable, low-cost platform for the ADF, but now with a capability that will take training to a whole new level.”


Tom Sanders, CEO of CTSi, says, “We are thrilled to be a member of this “US – AU” team that bring our US-based avionics experience to bear for our key allies here in Australia.”


“Varley Group has a track record of providing key capabilities and support to our warfighters, and we’re excited to be able to build on that legacy into the next generation and beyond,” says Jeff Phillips, Managing Director of Varley Group.  “Our customers will rely on this Mudbucket® Partnership for innovative airborne solutions for years to come.” 


This new direction for the Varley Group demonstrates the latest leading-edge technology for Avionics and Cyber space.


With Air Affairs’ operational expertise, Varley Group’s capability, and CTSi’s innovative engineering, the Mudbucket® Partnership creates a world-class team in the air services arena unmatched around the globe.


About CTSi

CTSi (a part owned USA division of Varley Group) is a specialising integrated solutions business developed to solve challenging technical problems. With 2018 sales over $50M and a solid SBIR track record, CTSi is positioned for rapid growth to meet emerging demand within the U.S. DoD for new technologies. See more about CTSi at


About Varley Group

Varley Group is Australia’s oldest and most advanced engineering company. The company success is in providing customers with innovative solutions and quality in design and manufacture. It provides a comprehensive range of services and products to a wide variety of major industries..  See more about Varley Group at


About Air Affairs

Air Affairs Australia is a highly capable and innovative Aviation Flight Operations and Engineering-based company.  Established in 1995 and 100% Australian owned, Air Affairs is a leader in the provision of specialized airborne and engineering services to the Defence Forces, Government departments and multinational companies in Australia and around the world.  See more about Air Affairs at