Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Australian ship builder targets offshore work
After five years of operating in the T&T market, Australian-based Austal is confident this country has produced skilled labour sufficient to meet its standards. Austal is a global contractor and provider of ships, systems and support.
“We are very keen on training, we do invest in our people. They come well-educated, but we train them also in other aspects of our work. And also develop their behaviours in terms of our Austal values, which we are very proud of,” said Graham Backhouse, president and general manager of Austal.
Backhouse spoke to the Business Guardian last Thursday at the heliport, Western Main Road, Chaguaramas.
He said Austal is an attractive employer in the industry because it is strong on reward and recognition and has the capability to retain staff.
“We put an advertisement in the paper for espousing our services and we get hundreds of applications for jobs, even though we are not advertising for jobs,” he said.
Local content is important to Austal and its projects, Backhouse said.
Asked whether the price of labour in T&T is too high, he said: “I think the market determines the price and we believe that we are extremely competitive in the market, but not only from a price perspective. What differentiates Austal from the pack is the quality and responsiveness of the 24/7 service offering we provide,” he said.
Though the company has managed to attract the right human resources, there is more to do when it comes to building T&T’s economy.
“You have seen from the infrastructure that we’ve helped provide. The frontline (ships) in Maritime national security are Austal designed and built, assets (which) we provided the Coast Guard. The frontline of the transport infrastructure, the Water Taxis are also Austal assets. Yes, we have done a great deal, but there is more we can do in partnership with defence or even with our commercial customers.”