Riviera Shapes the Craftsmen and Women of Tomorrow
7 May 2021
Riviera has been building luxury watercraft on the Gold Coast for 40 years. From humble beginnings the company has grown to become an internationally competitive force in the marine industry. As Australia’s largest builder of luxury motor yachts Riviera is the jewel of the Coomera Marine Precinct, which is the largest facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
The company has over 600 personnel working on site daily with a further 1500 suppliers providing parts and contract labour. Needless to say, Riviera is an incredibly significant player within the local economy and Queensland’s booming boat industry.
Around 15% of Riviera’s workforce is comprised of apprentices, covering a host of trades from carpentry to mechanical engineering. For the past 28 years Riviera has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with its nearest neighbour, TAFE Queensland Coomera Marine. According to Riviera’s Safety and Training Manager Adam Houlahan, of the 92 apprentices that are indentured at the moment, around 85 – 90% of them are studying with TAFE.
“That enduring relationship has allowed us to have some input into what units of competencies are focused on, along with how the training is structured and delivered. We get the teachers out here so that they can see what the site looks like and with that familiarity they’re able to deliver their training in a relevant manner.”
Riviera is encouraging more females to consider an apprenticeship with the company by proactively going to schools to make sure that female students are aware of the many opportunities within the company. “You don’t have to be a man or super strong to do this job”, says Houlahan. “There’s different roles for different types of people with different skills and different abilities. Some people here are working on parts that don’t even resemble a boat.”
One of the new breed is Claudia Le Fevre, a first year upholstery apprentice who enjoyed her first taste of Riviera through work experience while still at school. “I didn’t know that I wanted to be an upholsterer, but I’ve always been into design, so it seemed like a natural fit for me. To be honest I’d be happy to do any trade here – I love it!”
Calum McPhee is now in the fourth year of his apprenticeship at Riviera, having also started through a work experience program while he was attending St Stephen’s College nearby. Calum knew straight away that he would fit in at Riviera. “It’s the supportive culture that makes the difference. You feel as much a valued member of the team here as the guys who’ve been here for 30 years”, he says.
Riviera owner Rodney Longhurst says the company’s culture and workforce legacy are just as important as its business success. “When you think that we have over 600 people working here and more than 15% of them are apprentices, that’s a really significant contribution to training a skilled workforce. They’re our craftsmen and women of tomorrow”, he beams proudly.
“We’re always trying to make the next boat better than the last one. We’re a bit like a sporting team – always trying to be fitter, stronger and more agile to be better at what we do”, says Longhurst.
“That’s why we’ve adopted new technology to make our boats more sustainable, more efficient, more stabilised and more environmentally friendly. Fuel efficiency is better and the navigation technology is so sophisticated that people are now travelling further abroad in our boats because they feel more confident to do so.”
While many businesses struggled during the global pandemic, not so Riviera, which currently has the largest number of forward orders in its history. Unsurprisingly, Longhurst is optimistic. “The future is enormous. When you consider the boat was invented before the wheel and 70% of the world is water, there’s a lot of opportunity out there.”