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ROLF SIGGAARD GENERAL MANAGER, HR, TELECOMMUNICATIONS & FACILITIES MANAGEMENT MARY JOHNSTON GENERAL MANAGER, HR RE-SKILLING FOR TECHNOLOGY For Rolf Siggaard, these are exciting times, not only for Downer but for the technology and telecommunications industries in New Zealand as a whole. Siggaard, who moved to New Zealand from Denmark just over 11 years ago, joined the company just as it was starting to integrate its Works and Engineering businesses to form Downer New Zealand. Today, his business unit’s customers include Chorus, Telecom, Vodafone, Auckland Council, ANZ, and Transpower. Current projects include the Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) roll-out, the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), and the 4G upgrade of the Vodafone and Telecom Mobile cellular networks. “It is very dynamic and challenging from Downer’s point of view,” says Siggaard. “There are lots of technology changes going on right now such as fibre based internet and high speed cellular networks. We work at the forefront of smart deployment of new technology for our customers and the on-going maintenance. We see ourselves as a technology company with capability in supporting complex, critical, high volume activities. We need to be agile, quick on our feet, and stay very close to our customers to support them with technology changes.” Currently numbering around 1,600 employees and 700 subcontractors, Downer’s Telecommunications and Facilities Management people handle technical design, build, and maintenance work. Downer people have intimate knowledge of the New Zealand telecommunications networks and electrical installations in telephone exchanges, data centres, and other critical infrastructure facilities. Siggaard believes that the Downer brand helps the company to attract the qualified people it needs, and adds that growing and developing its own talent from within is the only way it can keep ahead of demand for the company’s services. “We generally do not have problems attracting good people,” he says. “The problem is that the wider industry has had two decades of very limited growth – so fewer people trained to work in this area. But suddenly we are laying all this fibre for the government’s UFB project and that is coming on top of our existing work on the traditional copper based network. The UFB project required additional manpower and subcontractor resources that really did not exist in the market place. We therefore had to re-skill and re-deploy many of our people and aggressively recruit new people domestically and from overseas and train them in our approach.” Even though Siggaard has many jobs to fill, his principal strategy is to develop people from within the firm. “We have to aggressively grow our own workforce by attracting people from outside the telecommunications sector, who are prepared to be trained by us and model who we are with our customers,” he says. The telecommunications industry in New Zealand has its own set of NZQA qualifications, which Downer teaches to staff in-house. “We use the NZQA system, along with our own internal standards developed in conjunction with our customers,” says Siggaard. “We do this for two reasons – because we have to provide a lot of training in the particular type of technology and equipment we use, and because there are limited training opportunities outside the company to study for the qualifications that we need.” Siggaard says the telecommunications industry in New Zealand is too small for universities and polytechnics to provide the courses needed, and that hiring a qualified person from a rival firm doesn’t solve anything. “It will create a vacancy elsewhere and one of our people might leave for it, so we need to grow the collective gene pool across the industry, rather than poach staff,” he explains. The training is bringing benefits beyond providing technical skills, Siggaard concludes: “We have found that by investing in people’s development there has been a really big change in their attitude at work. Our people value the opportunity to learn and work with new technologies. It all makes sense: we are essentially a people and knowledge based business. Great people, who like what they do, produce great work, which is exactly what our customers expect from us. ROLF SIGGAARD GENERAL MANAGER, HR 20 / DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE


Downer_Magazine_Issue_One
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