Transport and Logistics IRC Chair Profile

In this month’s newsletter we continue a series of profiles featuring the chairs of each of the 11 Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) we support. The chairs have a wealth of diverse experience in their relevant industries and one thing in common – they are all passionate advocates of Vocational Educational and Training.

This month we profile the Chair of the Transport and Logistics IRC, Mark McKenzie

How did you come to work in your industry?

That is such an interesting question and the honest answer is: ‘I don’t really know’. It wasn’t as if I had a burning ambition to work in the industry, but I did grow up with an awareness of the important role transport plays in supporting modern economies (As a kid, we used to play a game in the car where we counted the number of trucks we saw for each of the major transport companies as we regularly journeyed up the Hume Highway between Canberra and Sydney to see relatives). I started studies as a civil engineer and majored in transport engineering, spending the early years of my career working as a traffic engineer and then later working in national transport policy and advocacy. After a brief excursion into the Law Industry with a mid-sized law firm (working as a senior business manager and consultant), I founded my own consulting business specialising in the provision of policy and research services in the areas of transport, transport energy and transport-related environmental issues. So, in many ways, working in the transport industry just seemed to be a natural thing to do and the industry has been good to me.

What is your current role?

I am the CEO of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA), which is the national employer body representing the interests of all businesses operating in the fuel supply chain between ‘refinery gate’ and service station forecourt. These businesses include companies that haul transport fuels, wholesale fuel to industry and retail fuel to motorists across the country.

As CEO I am responsible for leading the association’s secretariat, which works in the areas of industry advocacy, government liaison, legislative compliance, workforce and skills development, and industrial relations.

What is the best part of your job?

Being part of the ‘big picture’! The industry I represent employs around 70,000 Australians, owns commercial assets valued at more than $29billion and generates around $75billion in revenues each year – much of it being passed back to the Australian Government in the form of fuel excise. Every Australian encounters our industry each week as they fill up their cars and trucks to go about their day-to-day activities. As a result, the industry is often taken for granted. People don’t recognise the massive logistical operation that works around the clock to ensure that all Australians have fuel when and where they need it. Contrary to public perceptions (and even my own before working within it) the businesses in the industry have a long history of successful operation working with high volumes and slim profit margins. It is an industry where the vast majority are just everyday hardworking Australians who are genuinely proud of what they do. Representing them in the media and championing their interests to Australian governments is a privilege.

Why are you an advocate for Vocational Education and Training?

Traditionally, VET has been about making sure that the people who are working in business and industry are appropriately trained and skilled to do their job to the best of their ability – and in a manner that does not compromise the safety of themselves, the people they work with, or the customers and external stakeholders that visit their workplace. So, as a person who has worked in business most of my life, I know that the ongoing profit and customer performance of a business is only as good as the skills of the people working within it. But the changing face of technology and market disruption has introduced a new element highlighting the importance of VET. The changing nature of the business environment means that a workforce must be continually learning new skills if it is to remain competitive and economically viable. It is not an option to stand still if businesses and industry want to thrive long term. Continuous workforce skilling and retraining is an essential element in helping businesses adapt successfully to the changing nature of the wider marketplace — which is why I am such a vocal advocate for VET.

What has your organisation done to develop the skills of your workforce?

Over the past decade, and in the absence of any formal qualification for the 40,000 people who man Australia’s service stations, ACAPMA developed an online training and assessment tool called the Petroleum Console Compliance course. Today, that tool is used by more than 21,000 people working across the nation’s network of 7,000 service stations and helps to ensure that staff are skilled in ensuring the safe, efficient and environmentally responsible management of service station sites. More recently, we have been working with our industry members and Australian Industry Standards (AIS) towards the development of national skills units for the personnel who install and maintain service station assets. A project proposal for this work was recently approved by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee. We are now working with AIS to develop skill units in four areas of industry priority.

What are you passionate about? What makes you smile? 

Hawthorn Football Club winning every weekend! Seriously though, I love to see people who have a genuine crack at something — whether it be in their work life, their sporting life or their personal life — and then actually succeed in making it happen. It could be as simple as seeing my step son step out into his own business as a plumber, or my son complete his builders licence (after studying three nights a week while working full time), or one of my member businesses successfully acquire a new business to grow their existing business. The human spirit is all powerful and often underestimated. When people are genuinely empowered to chase their dream and then succeed, often after multiple attempts, it is a fantastic thing to behold.