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O’Donnell Griffin Creates Global Recruitment Drive, Boosts Domestic Intake


The national skills shortage in the electrical and rail infrastructure industries has led to electrical engineering group O’Donnell Griffin launching a global recruitment drive to support its ongoing business growth.

O’Donnell Griffin (ODG), part of Norfolk Group Ltd (ASX:NFK), aims to fill approximately 50 skilled roles nationally from overseas within the next 12 months, while also creating domestic partnerships and initiatives to increase the training and recruiting of skilled Australian staff. Thirteen recruits have been brought into the company from overseas in the past year.

Mr David Lee, Chief Executive of Norfolk’s Electrical & Communications division, said the global initiative was necessary to drive the company’s expanding role in rail, mining, power, resources, water, and communications sectors.

“Staff have been recently recruited from France and the United Kingdom for ODG’s rail division, specialising in rail and systems design, construction, engineering and signalling,” Mr Lee said.

“Project managers have been recruited from the UK and we are currently in contact with recruitment agencies in Slavic states, including Russia, focussing on rail signalling design engineers.

“With the national infrastructure industry booming, O’Donnell Griffin continues to roll out major ongoing contracts and to sustain this business growth we require highly skilled technicians, designers, engineers and project managers.”

In the electrical industry sector, skills that have been targeted in the global drive include transmission design, instrumentation, project management and quantity surveyors, with recruits drawn from countries such as the Philippines, South Africa and the UK.

He said that domestic recruitment levels would also be boosted from between 20-30 per cent in the next 12 months depending on the number of projects won by the company.

Senior O’Donnell Griffin managers have been involved in the offshore recruitment drive. Along with visiting recruitment expos, they are also in contact with specialised recruitment agencies and will use social networks, viral marketing and referral systems.

“O’Donnell Griffin prides itself on its 100-years-plus record of maintaining a permanent workforce, a model we prefer over subcontracting. This doesn’t only deliver recurring service revenue but creates the loyal culture of the company which we believe to be a very attractive part of our global drive,” said Mr Lee.

The local skills shortage is a long-term effect of the privatisation of the rail and power industries, said Mr Lee: “When governments owned the rail industry, for example, they had substantial training and apprentice programs in place, with these juniors then graduating up into the broader rail industry.

“As soon as government-ownership ceased, these training systems stopped which the result that there’s been no feeder or top-up system in place at the apprentice level.

Mr Lee emphasised that O’Donnell Griffin is responding to this issue locally: “We have a great commitment to training our own apprentices and are involved in a number of other programs, including graduate programs for bringing junior engineers on line, and partnering with relevant universities.”

ODG presently has six graduates enrolled in a rail graduate engineer program in Victoria, undertaking post-graduate studies in railway signalling at Central Queensland University, he said.

Recent overseas recruits at O’Donnell Griffin include Mr Rob Vaughan, now Commissioning Manager on the major South Improvement Alliance rail works, recruited from the UK; and Mr Armstrong Apollo, an Electrical Design Engineer, recruited from the Philippines. O’Donnell Griffin is a member of the SIA alliance team – ODG signalling contract works now underway for SIA exceed $100 million.

One of four Filipino engineers recruited by O’Donnell Griffin, Apollo says this global recruitment move by the company actually precipitated a business shift and expansions within the Transmission Division.

“Up to that point, the division had mostly been engaged in major structural projects, using civil and mechanical engineers, but with the four of us involved - two more civil engineers, myself as an electrical engineer and one electronic engineer - it was able to expand on the electrical component of contracts,” Apollo says.

Mr Lee said, “The size and breadth of O’Donnell Griffin and associated brands of the Norfolk Group gives people the opportunity to advance and move within the company so that international and domestic recruits can look forward to an energised career with a stable, expanding company,”.

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