In a rapidly evolving employment landscape, Liam’s choice to undertake an apprenticeship as a Die Setter at W&S Plastics has resulted in many positive experiences that continue to shape his future in the plastics industry.

Just a few years ago, Liam, fresh from Year 12, hadn’t envisioned a future amidst polymers and dies. A relative’s suggestion steered him towards an apprenticeship he hadn’t considered. With a desire to earn a trade qualification and an open mind, Liam seized the apprenticeship opportunity with W&S Plastics—a decision he now deems “a pretty good decision”.

Today, Liam juggles on-the-job learning at the busy W&S Plastics factory with weekly classes during the term at TAFE. His three-year Certificate IV in Polymer Technology apprenticeship program isn’t just about mastering die setting—it’s a gateway into the vast world of advanced manufacturing, shaping materials into products essential for modern life.

On a typical day, Liam’s role involves a diverse range of tasks. He meticulously sets up production machines, consults job sheets, calibrates tools, and ensures materials and packaging are ready for the operators. Beyond these technical responsibilities, he also engages in innovative trial runs for bespoke customer parts, a task that highlights the company’s adaptability and commitment to precision.

Liam was very pleasantly surprised by the work environment at W&S Plastics. He recalls that prior to the job, “In my head, when I heard the term ‘factory work’, an image popped up of a long conveyor and people doing work that was super repetitive.” Instead, Liam has found his apprenticeship at W&S Plastics to be varied and extremely fulfilling.

Liam preparing an injection moulding machine for production.

He has found a rewarding balance in his apprenticeship—a mix of physical tasks without the strain of heavy lifting alongside intellectually stimulating work that avoids being overly technical. More than the job itself, he values the camaraderie and the satisfaction of contributing to the team.

At TAFE, Liam’s education encompasses a broad spectrum of skills relevant to manufacturing, plastics, and robotics. From hands-on production and programming to refining communication skills, the curriculum is designed to sculpt well-rounded polymer technicians capable of navigating the complexities of the industry.

Back at W&S Plastics, Liam’s skill set continues to expand, from mastering die-setting tools to driving a forklift—a certification he now proudly holds. A supportive workplace culture has been the foundation of his growth, offering mentorship, positive role models, and robust work ethics. “There’s a lot of good people here. They make me feel appreciated and value me,” Liam says, acknowledging the role of a nurturing environment in fostering his confidence.

Looking ahead, Liam sees his accidental foray into the trade as a fortunate twist of fate. The apprenticeship has equipped him with a trade vital to society, where advanced manufacturing, particularly plastics, plays a pivotal role in everything from electronics to everyday consumer goods.

To those pondering their career paths, Liam advocates for the die-setting apprenticeship, not just for the trade’s rewards but also for its assured place in the future. “It’s a fantastic trade to get into, with the security of knowing it’s going to be here for a long time,” due to the longevity of Australia’s manufacturing industry.