A day in the life

For IFAP general manager Offshore and Maritime Mark Small, a sense of humour is an important attribute when juggling a classroom training schedule and a general management position.
Journalist Zana Kaic spoke with Mr Small, and learnt that organisation and fl exibility are vital for his role.

Q. Please explain what your job
involves.
A. I am responsible for the offshore and maritime business units for IFAP, which includes the provision of training services and consulting that the company provides. In a nutshell, the company has a strategic plan, vision of ambition and priorities from the board, and it fi lters down to me to place [these] into operation. I delve into all sides of the organisation, which is fantastic. I still deal with operational issues with managers, who can come to me for advice and I give them ideas on how to deal with certain challenges. As a manager, I also look more than a day ahead: I look year to year and five years ahead while spending a lot of time thinking strategically as well. I have two business managers that look after two business units: one for offshore safety solutions and the other for offshore maritime training. The business managers  have a number of technical specialists, senior facilitators, facilitators and instructors that deliver a fl eet of programs. The nice thing is that I still get in the classroom and teach occasionally, which is an absolute treat – I love it.
Q. Describe a typical working day.
A. One of the things I’ve learnt is to be very organised and to prioritise your work, which is critical. You have to be able to learn what is important and what’s not important, and start each day with a plan. Then you try and run to your plan every day, but you need to be flexible because things crop up every day. It’s [a] very fast paced [position] – moving with different challenges all the time, which is great. You could be dealing with customer issues and then the next minute it could be human resources issues, then fi nance issues and then you could be working on customer concerns – all within the hour.
Q. What is involved with training
trainers?
A. There are two scenarios: we can be training someone up within the organisation so that they will be learning new knowledge and new skills, so we need to get them competent at what it is. Then we get them familiar with how to impart that set of skills and knowledge to others. We can also hire people from the industry with that knowledge and skill so that we can teach them how to teach. Sometimes we need to put them through the Certifi cate IV in Training and Assessment and then get them familiar with the course material and get them to present it. Some already have the knowledge of what they are going to teach and we show them the package that they are teaching, the lesson plan, how much time to spend and how much detail to go into, and the PowerPoint slide [presentation], so they [the trainees] understand what the intent of [the] slide [presentation] is. There are exercises and assignments for the participants to complete. There is a lot involved in getting an instructor up to speed on what we have to teach: a classroom component of the Certificate IV can take two weeks. After that there are assignments to put in place, which are completed in approximately six months through IFAP.
Q. What training projects are currently
being run by IFAP?
A. IFAP has been providing training for the oil and gas industry for quite some time: we have a long history in doing that. But obviously in the offshore oil and gas industry there is also the maritime industry that supports the oil and gas [sector] and what they are doing: they go hand-in-glove together. IFAP has expanded in the last few years on the number of courses run at the maritime centre. At the moment we are running a safe transfer at sea course, which came about from a request from members and clients where clients have undertaken their own risk assessments and have identified that transferring personnel, at sea to a vessel or from a vessel to a facility, has hazards and can be dangerous. To make it safer, people need to be trained. The [IFAP] course
involves practical sections where we takethe trainees out on a launch vessel and teach them how to climb a pilot ladder. We put them in a swimming pool and get the trainees to learn how to use self-inflatable life jackets. There are theory components and the course is aligned to the International Marine Contractors Association guidelines. Most times, when people go to work for the first time is when they learn how to transfer at sea. What we do, is take them through the course in a very controlled, calm environment with experienced people who have done it many times [and who] can talk them through how to do it safely. We have props set up so we can show them how to stand and hold onto various props properly. IFAP has a safe supervisor competence program, which came about through a project safe forum. It is a fantastic program for supervisors and what I really love is this is a fantastic initiative to improve safety in the offshore industry as well as providing
construction supervisors with the training necessary for them in the field of safety. At the moment I’m still primarily training that course and teaching instructors so that they can teach it. It’s a really great course so I’m pleased to support industry in that one. People are trained in classroom and practical components. One unit has actors to act scenarios and supervisors have to deal with it. It’s part of the course where the supervisors have to learn how to have a safety conversation and learn how to deal with safety issue problems at work. We have a variety of scenarios as well so that the supervisors can’t watch their mate go through it and then know exactly what to get right. Each supervisor gets a different scenario, and then they get feedback from the instructor and other participants. We link it back to how to have a safety conversation, [and] how to link it with problems at work as well as understanding and influencing safe behaviour.
Q. What are the highlights and
challenges of your job?
A. One of the challenges is time – time pressures, time confl icts – so that’s where it’s really important to be able to know what amount of time different things take and how much you should be giving it. Conflicting priorities can be another issue as well but they are the things that make your job fun. The highlights are enjoying the busy pace of the job… the problem-solving side of it and the variety of work: it’s not dull, boring and typical. That’s great. As a general manager, you are keeping the place running well [and] looking after the day-to-day operation. You support managers and then clients will come to you with requests, and that’s where you use your experience and knowledge and know-how on how the organisation functions so that you can meet the requests of your
clients.
Q. What sort of qualities are required
for your position?
A. Organisation and planning skills are critical; financial management is another critical one [and] how to influence people within your organisation, so you need to be able to communicate the vision for your organisation to get them to come along with you on that vision. A strong work ethic [is necessary] and you have to be able to work well with people, and you need to be able to develop and nurture the talent that is within your people and organisation as well. Another attribute that… is really important is that you need to care for the people that you work with. The other thing that helps me a great deal is having a sense of humour: that’s a really good attribute to have and [it’s] very important to be able to laugh at yourself as well.

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