Creating prosperity in our communities
By Sam Goldsmith, General Manager, Resources
ey changes to our strategy in community engagement initiatives in regional Queensland resulted in big wins for the company and even bigger wins for the local community and wider region.
In the Surat Basin, and in Chinchilla specifically, we support our clients with their operations, maintenance, and sustaining projects requirements as well as well servicing through our Easternwell division.
While Broadspectrum delivers a diverse range of integrated services that are essential to clients across the Resources, Industrial, Infrastructure, Defence, Property and Social sectors, in our Surat Basin operations we implemented strategies with the goal of improving our performance in localisation and community engagement as a key commercial imperative.
As a business, more than 85 per cent of Broadspectrum’s employees are local to where they work, more than 80 per cent of our procurement is spent locally and more than 80 per cent of our subcontractors are local*.
However, for our Surat Basin operations, our performance fell short of these national averages. In fact, as an industry, the levels of localisation in the coal seam gas sector is generally low when compared with all other industries and regions. I suspect this due to the speed at which the CSG industry has grown in a region that traditionally focused on agriculture.
We saw this as an opportunity to develop a Point of Difference in the market: an opportunity to significantly improve our community engagement and make a positive impact on a region we hope to be a part of for decades to come.
Obviously there is a strong commercial imperative that places localisation above a ‘feel good’ exercise.
A long term sustainable local workforce and supply chain that is aligned with our commitment to community engagement makes our service offering more cost effective, flexible and reliable – aligning with our clients’ goals.
This commercial imperative is easily seen if you consider these examples:
- We take people driving long distances for work off the road, reducing the risk of motor vehicle incidents.
- The cost of a FIFO worker versus a local worker is an extra $28,000 per annum per worker if you only consider travel and accommodation costs.
- You are more likely to retain local workers for the long term, giving you a greater reliability of your workforce, and a greater return of investment for recruitment and training costs.
- You can be more responsive to any issues that may occur, as your workforce can mobilise quickly and are more flexible.
- To remain competitive and foster a low cost environment, a sustainable industry requires a sustainable, low cost, high value supply chain. Enhancing our network of local partners makes us more competitive and successful.
- For our clients, us having strong ties to the community helps support their Social License to Operate endeavours. It makes us more attractive and more likely to win new work.
Understanding social imperative
So our decision to invest in our localisation strategy was an easy one. What we didn’t expect was that the community support for our business objectives was going to be so strong and rewarding.
Through discussions with our local employees, local government and local businesses we found that what the community wanted more than anything was for the industry to enhance the community not detract from it.
What do I mean by this?
- Local businesses want money to be spent in the community – not just on large services contracts and plant hire but within local services like butchers, bakers, and hairdressers. They want money to hit the high street.
- They want their kids to have reasons to want to stay in the community after high school, instead of heading off to the coast to look for work.
- The community wants employment opportunities and the chance to welcome new families to the region who were drawn here by new jobs.
- They also want to see the benefits of a growing community through increased government spending on infrastructure.
Business has a commercial imperative to support local workers and businesses, which is exactly what the community wants us to do. The key was to identify how to make this win-win situation work.
In developing our local content strategy, we had three main goals:
- To create talent pools, not just for us but for all local businesses.
- To involve local suppliers in our business, and have them be part of the service solution, and
- To connect more effectively with the local community in a targeted way that achieved common goals.
We launched this localisation strategy with the community at the opening of our workshop and office facility in Chinchilla. We wanted to demonstrate our commitment, and we thought the best way to do this was in front of 160 local businesses and dignitaries to publically commit to our targets.
The initiatives we developed to support the strategy are far from rocket science but rather demonstrate a cultural shift to ‘think local first’ – which is going to be the legacy for us.
This includes a series of new platforms, initiatives, systems and processes that facilitate local employment, such as:
- Connecting people with employment opportunities
- Sponsoring the formation of a local worker jobsite: www.localworkers.com.au. This is not a Broadspectrum website but an online community asset that enables all employers and all workers to connect with jobs, training and liveability information. The job board supports on average of 800 jobs at any one time across all sectors in the region.
- We have placed targeted recruitment advertising in local papers. The newspaper is so often dismissed as outdated but it is incredibly relevant in regional areas.
- Refocusing our recruitment
Our recruitment team has also changed their habits to search more locally for candidates. There are 300,000 people in the region, and in many cases training a local is more cost effective longer term than recruiting an experienced resource from the east coast.
- Offering access to new career opportunities
- One of the easiest commitments to make was to initiate a work experience program in the region to ensure that the local workforce we wanted to engage was going to be restocked with talent. Like construction projects and procurement, there’s a long lead time on your succession planning, and it starts with local students.
- Encouraging and incentivising existing employees to relocate. Strangely, we hadn’t had the conversation with our employees to see if they were interested in moving to the region.
- We initiated training through a community-of-business approach. Generally, regional areas are unable to deliver training programs because they struggle to get the critical mass of numbers to support the overheads so we began an alternate business-led approach. So far we have held five collaborative skills forums with local businesses and employment service providers, with the aim of raising awareness and delivering trainee and apprenticeship opportunities.
- In the local procurement and supply chain space we put our money where our mouth is and established a local office and workshop in Chinchilla where we launched the work experience program and brought together local businesses.
- We also worked with local suppliers to upskill them to improve their capability and capacity to work with large corporates because it’s in our best interest to have a local supply network that shares our goal to deliver safe, high quality and cost effective products and services.
- Finally, we started our own business network in the Surat Basin Industrial Park – integrating services with our neighbours to offer a single solution to clients and minimise transport and double handling inefficiencies. This is about bringing the fabrication, testing and paint-and-blast under a single offering – working together to streamline delivery.
Investing in a future for us all
Understanding community priorities
In connecting with the community, it is important that we take an active role in supporting community initiatives. What we’re really saying here is we must demonstrate that we are a community member and show that we are invested in community development.
How do we do this? When we employ locals we inevitably get drawn into the community: we are more aware of local issues, local events and local networks and groups. What we needed to do is give people time and space to get involved.
Through our Easternwell Community Grants program, we have provided almost $250,000 in financial support to community groups in regional Queensland throughout the past seven years. Now we have a better understanding of where to direct this support in the Chinchilla region.
Our learnings and legacy
These initiatives are grassroots stuff that form the foundation for the long term sustainable improvement we hope to achieve.
Localisation strategy through community engagement is a journey for all of us. But perhaps where I can offer the most value is in sharing the insights I gained and lessons I have learned so far on this journey:
- Local content is a shared responsibility
- To be successful you must engage with, support and understand the objectives of all stakeholders: industry, government, community and business advocates. It is only when everyone is working together that the outcome becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
- It is important that you earn the trust of the community
- We found that actions speak louder than words. Do what you say you are going to do and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
- You need to target your communication to locals and not have it sanitised. Be honest, humble and straight forward.
- If you get it right, you’ll find that locals will support the businesses that supports the community.
- Think ‘local first’
- Begin with the assumption that everything can be delivered locally and work out from there – this cultural shift is essential and has proven to be incredibly popular with our team.
- A local plan needs to be locally supported and locally delivered
- People on the ground need to engage with and become part of the community.
- Get the community involved in the strategy, get their feedback and make it work.
- Existing community networks are very effective but they’re looking for a partner, not a knight in shining armour.
- Truly care for the community you work in
- Make an effort to understand and get involved in community issues.
- Demonstrate that you are an active member of the community.
Our legacy is this:
- Over the past 12 months we doubled our local employees and increased the local content of our workforce by 20 per cent, overall.
- During this same time, 1 in 3 of our new starters were locals. Now the program has momentum – once the community knew that we had a preference and the commitment to recruit locally, candidates started coming to us.
- Our work experience and training initiative has been integrated with the QLD Government BEST program.
- Work experience and training programs may seem a very basic concept but our ability to recruit locally for the next 25 years is undermined if kids aren’t continually entering the talent pool. The work experience program we initiated attracted a further 40 businesses to participate. Our work experience strategy has now been adopted by the local community – we’ve handed it over – and now more than 110 Year 10 students have a regular work experience program every week.
** Acknowledgements to Ben Hughes, Director, Hughes et al. and Shane Charles, Executive Chair, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE).
Sam is a degree qualified project manager with many years’ experience in the oil and gas sector delivering brownfield projects in Australia, Russia, United Kingdom and Papua New Guinea.