Selected quotes from the interview with:
Darren Caulfield – CEO – James Technologies.
Could you start us off with an introduction to James Technologies’ main area of operations?
The James Technologies Group is primarily an electrical services company made up of three individual arms: labor hire, electrical contracting, and training. We are a certified electrical contractor in every state in Australia as well as in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, and we have Registered Training Organization (RTO) status in Australia. In total, the company employs some 200 people between Australia, PNG and New Zealand, which gives us the capacity to take on relatively large contracts but leaves us with a considerable degree of flexibility.
James Technologies primarily operates in Queensland. What was the rationale behind moving into PNG?
The move into PNG came as a natural step in our ongoing path towards expansion. Although it may be a different country many of the mines are operated by Australian based companies, which run their operations in much the same way as in Australia. As such, our services are a natural fit for the PNG market. Our first contract in the country was for the electrical supervision at the MMJV’s Wafi-Golpu project, which required us to send a team of superintendents to ensure that all infrastructure at the exploration site was safe and compliant with international standards. Although PNG’s electrical regulations are generally on a par with Australia’s, although at times enforcement can be lacking, resulting in standards falling below acceptable levels.
How do you evaluate the level of electrical expertise in PNG and how do you hope to see the situation progress in the future?
In general, the level of training provided by local institutions is probably not as thorough as you would expect from an Australian program and it is common to encounter unlicensed electrical tradesmen practicing around the country. Speaking from a supervisory perspective, it can be a challenge to ensure that all the workers on site conform to safety requirements. On the other hand, most of the major resource developers in PNG have their own rigorous systems that we are usually able to follow. On several occasions James Technologies has employed a number of PNG national electrical engineers, who work to a very high standard and fit in very well with our team.
As gas revenues start to flow into PNG and the economy continues to mature, we believe that the standard of training provided by both the public and private sectors will improve. In the future we hope that James Technologies will be able to expand its presence in the country, and that we will be able to take on more local apprentices . We could then bring them to Australia to broaden their knowledge and understanding of operating procedures and standards.
Could you provide us with some more details on the type of training courses that James Technologies offer to clients?
In Australia, James Technologies can deliver a range of short courses in first aid, working at heights and working in confined spaces, which we can conduct at our clients’ operation. In Queensland, every tradesman has to complete a refresher course in CPR and low-voltage rescue, which we also offer in house. Further to this, we offer several specialized high-voltage courses, which we run in the field and in a switch room environment. In PNG we see more demand for specially tailored training programs. We recently developed a transformer maintenance course for Hidden Valley’s electrical team. In the first instance, we delivered the material to their senior electricians and now they run it themselves every year for new staff.
Has the recent tension between Australia and PNG, and the subsequent ban on Australians applying visas on arrival had a significant effect on your operations in PNG?
We do not see the recent changes in visa regulations as a major issue to business relations between the two countries. There is a certain resentment that stems from the fact that Australians have always been able to receive an entry visa on arrival to PNG, while PNG national citizens have had to jump through several bureaucratic hoops to be able to enter Australia. It is easy to see the PNG side of the argument but, on the other hand, it is important to remember that many communicable diseases such as tuberculosis are commonplace in PNG, so obviously the Australian government is keen to minimize the risk of these diseases spreading to Australia. With regard to work visas for Australian citizens, the situation has not changed dramatically: it takes approximately six weeks to process an application and receive the visa.
What are your plans to develop James Technologies business in PNG over the coming years?
As activity in the mining industry is relatively slow at the moment, we are focusing on consolidating our existing customers and establishing stronger ties with them. However, once activity in the sector begins to resurge we plan to branch out to new clients and push hard to further develop the business in other areas such as oil and gas.