Skills investment

Investing in the next generation of boatbuilders, Riviera has opened a new Academy of Excellence for apprentices.

16 January 2024


Riviera is making a significant investment in the future of young Australians seeking a career in the marine industry by opening its own state-of-the-art training centre, The Riviera Academy of Excellence.

The academy, based within Riviera’s 16.8-hectare Gold Coast facility will allow the motor yacht builder to train, in partnership with Major Training Group, their 150 apprentices onsite across 10 individual trades, including composite technology, marine craft construction, diesel fitting and cabinetmaking.

The centre was officially opened on 12 January to coincide with the company’s 2024 apprentice sign-on day, which saw 52 bright new apprentices welcomed – 27 school-based and 25 full-time apprentices – for what is the biggest training intake in the company’s history clock on for their first week as aspiring boatbuilders.

Reflecting the growing diverse and dynamic group of people embarking on their journey to become luxury motor yacht builders, 12 women are part of the Riviera class of 2024.


“It’s always an exciting day for these young apprentices and their proud families,” said Keira Badke, Riviera Apprentice and Training Manager.

“Our holistic training program offers strong support for our apprentices where we teach their chosen trade skills alongside coaching life skills to help nurture world class people that will help build our world class motor yachts.

“They really are the master craftsmen and women of the future and from their very first day with Riviera we want our apprentices to know that we will do all we can to help them be the best they can be.

“It’s often their first real working day, so naturally, they’re eager to start learning their trade and ultimately, begin to help us build our beautiful motor yachts.”

The academy was officially opened by Senior Training Instructor Darren Kearns and Instructor Justin Leigh-Smith, who both completed their apprenticeships in 1996 in marine craft construction, with Leigh-Smith serving his apprenticeship with Riviera. Both also have had esteemed careers with Riviera, with Kearns serving over 18 years and Leigh-Smith 30 years.

Kearns and Leigh-Smith will be leading the training for the academy, which is a 680-square-metre state-of-the-art facility comprising two fully operational workshops and two learning hubs, including a dedicated drafting room, offices and a meeting room.

Within the facility there are two Halls of Fame recognising Riviera’s graduated apprentices who now hold key roles within the company and an impressive showcase of Riviera’s national and international awards for excellence.

The academy has partnered with Milwaukee, a global leader of professional tools to provide the latest equipment for use by the apprentices, including the most modern air filtration system to ensure the centre remains dust-free.

Riviera is responsible for training over 400 tradespeople through its award-winning apprenticeship program over the past 30 years, which involves partnerships with 37 schools in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Rodney Longhurst, Riviera’s owner and a former carpenter and joinery apprentice himself, is extremely passionate about supporting the growth opportunities of his team.

“I’m exceptionally proud that our Riviera team will be mentoring these talented new apprentices and giving them such a great opportunity – it’s immensely rewarding for me to see our apprentices develop into such accomplished mature adults and great Australians, all with world-leading boatbuilding skills,” he says.

“Our significant investment in our new Academy of Excellence reflects our investment in all our team. We want each and every person at Riviera to be the best they can be.

“So many of our senior managers and tradespeople have completed their apprenticeships here, highlighting the rewarding and long-term career pathway that we offer at Riviera.”



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