Jill Follington – Industry Mid North Coast

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Firstly, a huge congratulations, Jill, for being nominated as a finalist in the national 2015 Women in Industry Awards in the category of “Social Leader” and “Industry Advocacy”! Can you tell us a little more about these awards?

The annual Women in Industry Awards recognises and rewards the achievements of women working within the mining, engineering, and manufacturing industries. They aim to raise the profile of women within industry, promote and encourage excellence in leadership, innovation and advocacy.

It’s more than just recognition though; the Awards aim to provide an opportunity for new business opportunities and network expansion between women within these industries. It also facilitates them to come together to celebrate their success and to further encourage driving change and to break down the barriers, which then creates new possibilities for the next generation.

Your current position is Executive Director at Industry Mid North Coast. Can you please give us some insight into what this role involves?

As the Executive Director I am responsible for the co-ordination and management of the operational aspect of the Association. It is my responsibility to see that the vision that is set by the board of Directors is achieved.

What is the most rewarding part about your role with Industry Mid North Coast?

I guess it is seeing how the industry is beginning to change and embrace a new way of doing things. A great example of this is the number of successful collaborations we have been able to influence. These collaborations not only allow for larger projects to be manufactured on the Mid North Coast, but it also brings stability to our workforce, it fosters innovation and opens markets that were once thought to not be attainable.

What do you see as the three biggest challenges that the manufacturing industry is facing at the moment?

The most obvious is the inability to be able to compete with the likes of China and India, labour costs, compliance and the lack of government commitment to the industry and keeping work in Australia.

While it is understood that new technologies will save time and money and with an industry that is keen to embrace them, the issue is having the cash flow to afford to purchase the technology and the time to implement the new system, in an industry that is already very time poor.

The last but definitely not any less significant, is the image that manufacturing has. It is seen as an old fashioned, dirty industry that has limited pathways and career progression. Many schools, careers advisors and parents do not understand the changes that have occurred, nor how highly skilled the industry has become, and therefore do not encourage young men and women to pursue a career within the industry. This is having a significant impact on the industry, as they struggle to find a suitable workforce.

Industry Mid North Coast is hosting the Regional Manufacturing & Engineering Capability and Innovation Expo in conjunction with Newman Senior Technical College in Port Macquarie in September this year. Can you tell us a little bit about this project and its significance to this area?

The Expo is designed to showcase the capability of the manufacturing industry across the Mid North Coast. It aims to demonstrate the exceptional and innovative education that is being facilitated at Newman College and to also encourage engagement with new technologies and products that are not available to the industry within the region.  We will also highlight through guest speakers such as Marita Cheung, who is founder of Robogals, was 2012 Young Australian of the year and also founder and current CEO of 2Mar Robotics, how exciting this industry can be and hopefully move towards changing the perception of the industry within our region.

The expo will also provide the local industry and associated industries with an opportunity unlike any other, to network with each other, key stakeholders, special guests to the region and the next generation of potential employees as we engage with the schools across the region.

The significance of this event is that it gives us the opportunity to be seen and heard, show case our capability, “what we can do”, as well as put our region out there for the world to see.

We are currently seeking sponsors for this event as well as interested manufacturers who would like to submit an EOI for a stand on the day. If you would like further information, you can contact me via email at executive@imnc.com.au.

What would you class as your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been very lucky and have achieved great success within my career to date. I have been a guest speaker at a number of conferences, I have mentored some amazing young women who have gone on to also achieve great success, and I have a sound personal and professional development practice that I am very proud of. However, Industry Mid North Coast was something everyone said would never work, it could not be achieved, and while I cannot claim it as my success alone, I am very proud of what the founding Directors created, the commitment they have towards their industry and towards their region, the vision they had, the trust (while difficult) that they placed in each other and the cultural change they have influenced across this region.

IMNC continues this labour of love, facing the challenges and finding the opportunities five years on with our current board and partners in the Commonwealth Bank, Horan Steel, North Coast TAFE and AI Group.

They said it could not work, it would not work; industry proved them wrong!

And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?

The Chair of the newly created Advanced Manufacturing Industry Growth Centre – Andrew Steven. The Growth Centre is designed to be industries’ voice to government, to set strategies and deliver outcomes under the four themes of encouraging collaboration, enhancing workforce skills, identifying opportunities to reduce regulatory burden and improving capabilities to engage with international markets, and they have a huge budget to do it with.

Lorna Jane Clarkson – this is a woman who has the balance right. I find the way she lives her life, what she stands for and how she has achieved her success to be inspiring and motivating.

Meg Teasdell – Meg is an environmental engineer who works at Birdon Marine and is one of my closest friends. Meg keeps me grounded; she is also one of the most fascinating conversationalists, and we share a passion for the industry. I could not have a lunch without her.

Thanks for your time, Jill.

Interview by Jane Hillsdon, Principal Consultant of www.dragonflymarketing.com.au


This article was from issue 116 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus.

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