Many paths to find a way


The world of work is changing – in offices in the CBD, and in oil and gas plants in the regions.

And Jamie Huthwaite and Matthew Brierley are on a mission to ensure Woodside and key divisions such as Production and Maintenance do not get left behind.  There’s too much at stake.  For one thing, areas like Maintenance accounts for a huge proportion of operating expenditure, so they need the most talented people to drive the best results.  Then there’s the pace of change and the need to keep up with innovation, whether it’s 3D printing to replace parts or Artificial Intelligence to find solutions.  “You can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always been done,” argues Jamie Huthwaite, operations capability manager.  “When I was a graduate engineer, operators were big men because valves were big and you needed big, burly operators to open them. Now you have chain wheels and push buttons.  “People today work smarter, not harder and our workforce has to reflect this.  “It’s been said that two-thirds of today’s primary school children will be working in jobs that don’t even exist today.”

Matthew Brierley, Maintenance capability manager, agrees.  And one ingredient needed to achieve top quartile performance is to promote diversity within the workforce.  “We’re growing diversity all the time and we have made some great strides in establishing a diverse workforce in Maintenance that is more reflective of wider society,” says Matthew.  “But we need to do a lot more, and we will.”  Not only is diversity meritorious, it’s good for business.  “The research is unequivocal: a diverse team with varying IQs will outperform an homogenous team with high IQs,” says Matthew.  “Having a diverse group around the table will always drive innovation and continuous improvement better because they’ll look at different ways of doing things other than the same old predictable ways.”

Jamie insists that selection is still made on merit, but that he and Matthew are working to remove unconscious biases.  He doesn’t have to convince Melinda Clarke.  “There are so many preconceptions that it’s a man’s world and girls can’t do what boys can do but I say bull,” Melinda says.   “These days you work smarter, not harder. There are smarter ways to do things and that’s the way of Woodside these days. And studies confirm that women tend to take a bit more care.”

Melinda says she’s never really experienced any issues at work because of her gender.  “Perhaps you need to stand up for yourself and maybe you feel that, as a woman, you have to prove yourself a little bit more than the boys,” she says. “But really, these days it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman; it’s whether or not you do a good job.”  She says she loved working in Maintenance before she went on maternity leave, and returned as the lead resource estimator at the Karratha Gas Plant. Now, she’s a tool time co-ordinator.  “I am a fitter by trade and I’d love to stay close to that because I’m a maintainer at my core – I love fixing things and making things better for good,” she says.
“It used to be plant – now it’s processes.”

Lennis Connors has worked in the Indigenous space in resources industries for the best part of 15 years.  Born and bred in Roebourne, Lennis identifies with the Banjima language group.  His current role is an Indigenous employment adviser, providing support and mentoring to Indigenous apprentices and trainees.  But he’s planning a career switch. In January, Lennis becomes a mechanical apprentice.  He says he feels like it’s the right move to ensure he progresses in the direction he wants.  “I’d like to be with Woodside for a long time and eventually move into the training field,” he says.  “I think doing a mechanical apprenticeship and going down that path will help me achieve that.”

Emma Murphy, 36, knows all about career changes.  After a year at university (“it wasn’t for me”), she was in the Australian Army for 11 years, then worked as an electrical trades assistant in construction before a workmate pointed out an advertisement for an INLEC apprenticeship.  Emma had wanted to be a “sparky” since her school days, but Mum wasn’t too keen.  “She thought it was a boy’s world,” says Emma with a laugh.  “But Dad’s a plumber, my family all works in construction and I told her, this is what I’d really like to do.”  Now, Mum is happy that her daughter is in the job that suits her best.  Emma finished her apprenticeship in February and now works at Pluto as a FIFO maintenance technician. 

Rhett Thomas was born in Karratha after his parents moved there for work on the building of LNG Train 1.  But the Indigenous side of his family hails from further afield – the Nukunu people of the Southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. The Nukunu belong to the Adnyamathanha language group.  A Maintenance supervisor, Rhett says: “The diversity is growing within our team.  “But no matter what culture you come from, what your gender, you’re shown the same amount of respect as everyone else.  “I’ve been across just about every Maintenance team at KGP and wherever I’ve moved it’s always been a seamless changeover and I’ve always felt welcome.”

The presence of more female apprentices, more minority groups, is a sign that the momentum for greater diversity is succeeding.  “We’ve made inroads,” says Matthew, “but we’ve still got a way to go.”  “We are continuing to see strong diversity in our new employees and look forward to the benefit an increasingly diverse workforce will bring to a fast-changing future”.  Jamie says he’s in favour of “pushing the dial towards a better societal representation,” adding: “In Production, our mantra is ‘through our people we will outperform the emerging competition’.  “Having a diverse workforce will surely accelerate this.”

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Trunkline Q4 2016​​