|Glenn Shumacher - Master of Engineering (Power Generation) graduate|
Testimonial – Power Generation Skills Development Program
Glenn “Shoey” Schumacher
Gladstone Power Station, Gladstone, Queensland, 12th January, 2009.
Undoubtedly the Electric Power Industry in Australia and around the world is facing its greatest challenge in its 100 odd year history. On one hand we see a rapidly growing demand for electricity and on the other hand the issues of climate change and sustainability and these issues now requiring us to think on a "wider canvas" than perhaps we have traditionally had to before. For the first time in this Industry, our challenge is not only a matter for individual business or regions, but rather a matter of interest to the nation and the world as a whole.
More over, to solve these challenges I am of the view that we need to be able to attract very good people into our industry. We also need to retain our people and develop them beyond what may have sufficed in the past. We need to encourage and support our people to rise to the challenges we face and indeed to see these challenges as opportunities. We need also to engender a passion in our people for what they do.
To that end, three of Queensland’s generating companies and three of the states major universities have worked together to develop a post graduate education program. The Power Generation Skills Development Program is the work of members of the Power Industry working with the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Central Queensland University. It is a great example of industry and academia co-operating to work towards doing what Engineers are good at – solving problems. If the Electricity Industry is to overcome our challenges, (and it is in all of our interests that we do) we need good Engineers who have the skills and motivation to succeed. This program is already proving its worth in helping attract new engineers to our industry.
Some of the other key points of this Program that I feel may add some value are:
- The subjects are delivered in a block-release type method designed for busy people who have a full time job to fulfil;
- Typically assessments are aimed at real life issues within each students own workplace;
- There is a deliberate approach of using well experienced practitioners in each field to deliver whole or part of the subject (Power Industry Professionals working with Academics);
- Single subjects can be undertaken or qualifications to three levels can be achieved (up to Master of Engineering).
From my personal point of view, I see the rebuilding of the skills base within the Electricity Industry as a means to better prepare ourselves to meet the fast approaching challenges. Whilst we face a most demanding period, it is also a period of great opportunity that will require good people with good skills. At the end of the day, it will be the skills, knowledge, experiences and drive of our people that will be the major determinant of our ability to meet those challenges. The Power Generation Skills Development Program is a great example of the kinds of initiatives we need to attract, retain and motivate our people.
I am also strongly of the view that we need to genuinely build engagement between the Academics and the Practitioners in the Engineering Profession. We have in the Power Generation Skills Program a great vehicle for building both those links as well as attracting, retaining and motivating people to and within our Industry (and the Engineering Profession).
The Program has also promoted a cross functional approach to learning, i.e. Electrical Engineers undertaking mechanical subjects and Mechanical Engineers undertaking electrical subjects. The Program does not attempt to turn Mechanical Engineers into experts on electrical engineering issues or vice versa, but rather to create a learning environment where the barriers to sharing information and problem solving skills are removed. It is my view that that the Program has a role in creating more holistic and flexible Engineers in the Power Industry.
The majority of people who have taken part in the Program to date have been practitioners in the field; they are focused upon the application of engineering to the solution of everyday problems. This requires a different manner of knowledge management. The Program has been designed to enhance a problem solving approach that encourages sharing of information, reference to theory, reference to experience that they and others had gained, industry research, use of tools such as root cause analysis and so on. Such an approach to 'field engineering' problem solving is critical. We need to give people the opportunity to gain knowledge but, it is equally important that we do it in such a manner that they gain (or improve) their skills at applying the knowledge to make it truly useful. This approach makes the Program that much more valuable to all concerned.
Personally, I have been involved in the Power Generation Skills Development Program from the early conceptional phase, through its design and implementation. Whilst my initial involvement was from a managerial point of view, I soon found that if the program was to be successful at the start, there was a need to “lead from the front” by actually going through the Program with those who I had been encouraging to take up the opportunity.
Some might ask what value is there in somebody such as myself who occupies a senior position in my Industry spending the effort and time to take part in such a Program. Indeed, completing the Program has for me been challenging in terms of my limited available time. However, I believe that the importance of providing leadership through action is most important. At the same time, I hope my involvement reflects my real belief in the importance of our people right through our Industry. I also hold strongly to the value of “life long learning” not as some fluffy managerial concept but rather as a real and important key to good leadership. Believe me, people such as General Managers can still learn new things from young Graduates as I have through the Program.
Along the way I have learnt a lot and consider my involvement in the Program one of the best learning experiences that I have had over what is now a long career. I have genuinely enjoyed the development of a “community of practice” across those who have been involved in the Program and I hope those connections continue.
I can strongly recommend the Power Generation Skills Development Program to those practitioners in the Electricity Industry and those who are joining the Industry or would like to join the Industry. Take the opportunity that is there and make use of it.
BE (Mech.), MBA (Tech. Mang.), ME (Power Generation),
FIEAust, CPEng.(Reg)., RPEQ., AFAIM., MAIE., MAICD.
GENERAL MANAGER NRG GLADSTONE POWER STATION