From 40,000 feet up…to project management – Naval Shipbuilding College

From 40,000 feet up…to project management

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

For Craig McDonald the Airline industry was his home for 20 years – he worked as a Customer Service Manager for Qantas but was unfortunately was stood-down last year due to the global pandemic – so, after a challenging year, Craig has decided to pursue a project management career in Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry.


The Naval Shipbuilding College’s collaborative partnership with Qantas included a series of FREE 60-min webinars open to all Qantas personnel who were temporarily stood down due to the COVID-19 situation.


“My Manager at Qantas told me about the opportunities in shipbuilding,” Craig said.


“I knew that I wanted move across to an industry with structure, professionalism and a long-term goal to strive towards.”


Craig joined NSC’s national Workforce Register and through a conversation with NSC’s Candidate Engagement Consultant, he discovered that his current skills would be transferrable to project management in shipbuilding, including a Certificate 3 in airline operations, health and safety training, auditing training, manual handling training, drug and alcohol management plan for managers, competition and anti-bribery law compliance, privacy awareness, yearly emergency procedures and security and medical training.


Craig explained how the NSC has greatly assisted him during these challenging times, especially with the pressures and providing hope among all the uncertainty.


“COVID-19 has impacted my family in a big way – both my wife and I worked for Qantas and during 2020 we each only worked 4 months. Outside of this time, we were on stand-down.”


“It has been an emotional road to make my decision to take a voluntary redundancy – and it’s not been without a few tears in our home – but I am excited to see where this opportunity leads,” Craig said.


Craig described how health, safety and compliance with Government legislation is at the highest of priorities at Qantas.


“We had access to over 40 different manuals and policy documents to reference on the job: five common manuals are regularly used, and the others are referenced intermittently.”


“There can be pressure within the role, but you need to be the person who naturally thrives in these moments. No panic. Just prioritise the tasks at hand and get on with it.”


Stressful times for Craig included and were not limited to strange smells on the aircraft at 40,000 feet up, serious medical incidents and multiple medical incidents at the same time which required intervention.


Craig will forever be thankful to Qantas for 20 great years, great working relationships with peers and passengers alike – and extensive training that will benefit him for life.


“Building relationships starts with a single conversation and builds to a place where you both freely talk about your families,” Craig said.


“This could be anyone from a politician, a CEO, a mining engineer to a businessperson and many other categories in between. When a well-known business leader asks you how your children are by their names, you know you’ve been very successful in building that relationship over many years.”


At first, when Qantas offered redundancies to his department, Craig said he was not interested and declined the offer.


“After all, I loved my job. I was very good at it and knew I would prosper once the opportunity to return came around.”


“It’s a diverse role and one you can always find a challenge, you see the results of your work in the metrics as well as how the passengers react and you get to develop staff with the foundations that allow them to advance and demonstrate their own leadership aspirations with confidence.”


Craig remembers the tough transition from working in an environment that operated 40,000 feet in the air and entailed the service of fantastic products, great wine and using silver service, to working in a freezer room at minus 26 degrees for 8-10 hours picking and packing frozen products to support his family.


Still, Craig has remained optimistic and feels fortunate to have found work during such a testing time.


“I was fortunate to get a role working in a warehouse freezer that supplied one of the major supermarket chains.”


A tough schedule that required Craig to leave home early in the morning before his family was awake, returning home mid-afternoon.


“I have met some great people in the freezer and enjoyed our conversations as we worked, but you couldn’t talk too long as you had to keep moving to stop your nose or fingers feeling the cold too much,” Craig said.


“The challenges on my family have been significant. Can we both work? Do we keep the kids in school? Do we put the renovation plans on hold? The stress of when will State borders open? When will flying return? When will we get back to normal? How do we preserve our finances if COVID-19 goes well beyond a year?”


Around late April, Craig had a revelation when he discovered the NSC.


“I became aware of the Naval Shipbuilding College and I joined the national Workforce Register. I started to build a relationship with a Candidate Engagement Consultant at NSC who mentored me on study and directions I could take.”


Craig knew that shipbuilding was a huge win for South Australia when it was announced, for he had gained further knowledge during an in-flight discussion with then Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne.


“I see that Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry will be around for many decades now. I have spoken to a wide range of people from politicians, government officials and industry veterans – from both Australia and overseas – onboard my Qantas flights and they all talk highly of the industry,” Craig said.


“And current projections for future growth prospects over and above the initial $90 billion dollars announced by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne look promising.”


First, Craig discussed this idea with his wife, as they began to consider and contemplate their options.


“Could I take a redundancy and try to target a role in shipbuilding? What transferable skills do I have? Can I take on a new role – and do very well? What training can I do to best position myself? What further guidance do I need?”


These exciting and daunting opportunities involved within shipbuilding changed Craig’s mind about being made redundant, which saw an end to his 20-year airline career.


“The very next day, NSC’s Candidate Engagement Consultant Trish contacted me to touch base to see how I was going. The support and guidance she offered has left me feeling very motivated.”


After recently enrolling in a Certificate 4 in workplace health and safety, NSC has helped Craig with project managements courses and commenced a Diploma of Project Management in the last quarter of 2020.


“The WHS course appealed to me as I have previously worked in this field and enjoyed the role greatly, while project management will assist me with reskilling for in the roles I would like to perform in shipbuilding.”


Craig understands that not all businesses operate and conduct safety protocols to the same extent that Qantas do.


“Qantas are not just an industry leader, but also a business leader in their practices and staff training and this forms part of what I can bring into my next position.”


When offering some advice to others considering joining the ever-growing Australian Naval Shipbuilding Industry, Craig recommends joining NSC’s national Workforce Register to learn more about the array of career opportunities.


“It’s something I wish I had done earlier.”


For Craig it was as simple as booking in for a telephone conversation, where he was able to share a little bit about himself, his background and transferable skills.


“NSC’s career and training advice is tailored for you and you’re supported along the way. From there you can register for regular webinars and see job alerts via email every week.”


My Manager at Qantas shared as many contacts as she could with various managers for secondary employment opportunities – and NSC was one that caught my eye,” Craig said.


Having moved from Queensland to South Australia, Craig feels as though he has hit the jackpot living here in Adelaide – and being presented with an opportunity to support and perform a role that builds longer term security for our nation is appealing.


“I knew the scale of Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry was going to be significant and now, with the work being continuous, it is growing – so I registered in June this year and started my shipbuilding journey.”


Watch Craig’s story here. 


If you or someone you know are interested in knowing more about the job opportunities in Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry – from trades to PhDs – join NSC’s National Shipbuilding Workforce Register, so we can connect your with one of our Candidate Engagement Consultants for your confidential career conversation and help you find your pathway to your future shipbuilding career.

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