It’s understandable when a Riviera owner feels like they’re living the dream, but what about a first-year diesel fitter apprentice? Laura Hillman stepped out of her workshop at Riviera’s world-class facility at Coomera, to speak with us about how she is living her best life learning the art and science of handcrafting luxury motor yachts.
“Riviera has always been part of my family life; it’s in our blood we like to say. I can’t remember not ever being on one,” says the 17-year-old Gold Coaster with a wide smile. This is no exaggeration. Laura’s grandparents, Lloyd and Liz Hillman, are Riviera owners of almost 40 years, have owned more than 10 different models and even have a plaque with their names on it at the Aftermarket & Service facility that they opened in 2008.
“What always interested me as a kid, was the engine room,” says Laura. “I’d stick my head down there and sort of pretend like I knew what I was looking at. I was so intrigued by how everything worked. It sparked a real interest in engineering and the mechanical side of things.”
Two years ago, Laura leapt at the chance to participate in a two-week work experience placement at Riviera. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “The team was awesome, so inclusive and welcoming, and it just made me love it and want to come back straight away.”
Which is exactly what Laura did. First, she attained a Certificate 2 in Engineering as a prerequisite for the trade, then she applied for a school-based apprenticeship, working at the Riviera factory one day a week. Finally, at 16 years of age, the ebullient young woman started a four-year apprenticeship full-time as an Engineering – Fixed and Mobile Plant mechanic.
“It’s definitely different for a woman to be in this industry,” admits Laura. “I’m the only girl in our building within our engineering department. But I don’t feel left out of anything or treated any differently. I work as much, am taught as much, learn as much; it makes no difference and I’m not disadvantaged. There are new technologies that make some of the workload easier. We have a crane for heavy lifting, for example.”
Laura’s sister Claudia is a third-year apprentice at Riviera working in upholstery. “That’s her passion,” says Laura. “She’s always loved interior design and also grew up on Rivieras so, when the opportunity came up, she went for it too. There are misconceptions about women in the boat building industry, but there’s every trade under the sun here and the opportunities are endless. You can go as far as you want if you push yourself. With a good attitude and the right mindset, you’ll do well here.”
The camaraderie among Riviera owners is often celebrated. There’s a sense of being part of a family. And it’s interesting to note that this is also true in the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. “We like to say that we’re one big family,” says Laura. “Everyone says hello, everyone smiles. Being an apprentice at Riviera is completely different from the typical Aussie apprenticeship. The vibe is completely different. Everyone is welcoming and it’s all about learning as much as you can. It’s a really supportive environment. People are passionate and they love what they do; it’s a really positive team.
“At the end of the week, I’m as excited as I was at the start of the week. I love being here; every day is awesome. I like coming to work and I’m proud to be here and be a part of this spectacular motor yacht that gets created, it’s a dream. I’m lucky enough to work on the big boats, the 72 Sports Motor Yacht and the Riviera 78 Motor Yacht. I love putting the work in, looking back, and realising that I was part of this. There’s a massive sense of accomplishment.”
With the two girls handcrafting luxury motor yachts, there’s no end in sight for the Hillman’s appreciation for the Riviera life. “It’ll always be a part of our family and how we gather and bond. And now Pop finally lets me get my hands on the wheel on my own!” laughs Laura.
For more information visit www.rivieraaustralia.com