JUSTINE GREENE: Hello and welcome to ‘Spoken’ – the podcast for GFG Alliance colleagues across the world. I’m Justine Greene and this time we focus on the GFG Foundation with Dr Claire Neilson and Jonny Samengo. Plus, we’ll meet the ex-Captain of Ireland’s Women’s rugby team to talk about GFG’s ‘I am Here’ programme. As always, myself and our guests are joining the conversation remotely. First, of course, we’re joined by Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of the GFG Alliance, hello Sanjeev…
SANJEEV GUPTA: Hello again Justine.
JUSTINE: I thought we’d start with a personal question. We know your work life and home life are interwoven, but if you ever need to relax your mind, what do you like to do, a movie, a good book….?
SANJEEV: Actually, what I find quite relaxing and helpful is actually talking to my eldest son. And he, you know, he will literally ask a hundred questions within an hour, and many of them are quite amusing. And some of them are very interesting. So I find that quite fun and relaxing. Otherwise, I’ve started, actually as a result of this lockdown, I’ve started exercising. So, bike rides I find quite relaxing too.
JUSTINE: Exercising is great for freeing the mind. Do you ever really stop and switch off, or are the ideas keep whirring away regardless?
SANJEEV: No, it’s, unfortunately, it’s a curse. It’s incessant. I mean, if I– The moment I have an empty moment my brains suddenly– There’s a hundred other ideas of scrum jumping in. So the best thing is just to keep going.
JUSTINE: Ok well recently here on the podcast, Giovanni Carpino gave us a tour of Liberty Magona in Piombino, Italy. And you’ve now been there with good news to report, firstly the restarting of the pickling line – for those who don’t know, tell us what this is?
SANJEEV: The pickling line, basically takes hot-rolled coil and removes the rust from the coil, so that it can be further processed. So the plant was used to buying cold-roll in the past, which meant we could use our cold-rolling line, we were always used to buying pickled material. Either way, we had very restricted supply. We were basically only buying from one plant. By restarting the Pickling line, not only does that add more value to the production chain, but what it means is it frees up the plant to basically buy hot-rolled coil from anywhere in the world. So now we buy coil from many different sources, which allows us to optimise value.
JUSTINE: And I hear there was a ceremony to formally inaugurate the line with a local dignitary?
SANJEEV: So, we had a ceremony, the mayor and the regional president, they were there. Some of our key customers’ workers were there. And, it was very important because actually, this is the first public event we’ve held since the outbreak of the COVID crisis. Obviously, all protocol was followed, everybody did– Were talking through masks, and keeping social distance and so on, everything was done, as you would expect. But it was still important that we were able to do it. It made, I think… it lifted everybody’s spirit quite a lot.
JUSTINE: You’ve also made new investment in the plant and welcomed some new recruits?
SANJEEV: Yes, the investment is important, it’s part of the promise, which I made to the plant in the quarter that we would be on this journey. We’ve increased production by 40%, we’ve increased employment by 20%. But I think what is remarkable and very, very important about that increased employment is that every single one of those people, eighty-one new employees have been hired, every single one of them was below twenty-five. Between twenty and twenty-five. So this is the beginning of a new era, as far as I’m concerned, in GFG. And actually in the industry generally. We will see a huge new inflow of young people into our industry, which is very encouraging.
JUSTINE: Great news. So, fresh blood and an eye on the future. Coming next, we’re looking at the GFG Foundation…
The GFG Foundation helps people develop skills needed in industries including engineering, metals and renewable energy. Sanjeev, I believe the Foundation is very close to your heart?
SANJEEV: We have a skills gap, there has been a drain of– There hasn’t been any new inflow over the last twenty, thirty years, in terms of young people coming in and sort of having that intergenerational skills transfer. So now we need to catch up. And in order to catch up, we need to focus on a) bringing young people into industry, so when you look at industrial cadets or GFG cadets in Australia, it’s those two programmes are basically designed around going to primary schools, secondary schools, and enthusing children to look at industry and say, ‘OK, yes, yes, this is an exciting alternative…’ or one of the avenues in life in terms of a career. So, that’s one part of it which we’re progressing on. But I want to do much more. We want to really start, you know, I want to now start setting up academies, where we will train people to go directly into a vocation, into industrial skills and industrial jobs. So that’s basically the future of the foundation, the future is about really starting to– At every level, from literally the beginning till then, having an ability to provide opportunities and encouragement, and the training to bring people into our industry.
JUSTINE: Well we’re joined now by Dr Claire Neilson, who leads the GFG Foundation in the UK and Jonny Samengo, who leads the GFG Foundation in Australia. Hello and welcome to you both. A question for each of you to start, looking at both the UK and Australia, how much of a skills gap is there in the industries I mentioned that the Foundation works in? Claire….
CLAIRE NEILSON: Hello Justine. So, if you look at trends in demand for skills, there’s a definite shift in a much greater need for expertise in areas such as technology, digital, engineering and science. And a recent report by Engineering UK examined the current supply of talent coming through the education pipeline. And it’s anticipated that there will be an annual shortfall of almost sixty-thousand engineering graduates and technicians to fill these core engineering roles. And principally, that’s what the foundation is looking to address. By trying to present a modern and sustainable perspective on industrial careers, to hopefully inspire our future generations.
JUSTINE: And Jonny, the skills gap picture in Australia…
JONNY SAMENGO: Yeah, thanks, Justine. What really hit home to me, when I was visiting one of the GFG facilities in Western Sydney, and I was talking to them about the student programme, the possibility of us going into that market in the near future, and they actually even saying they’ve had jobs, really good, high-quality engineering jobs, advertised for not just months but on occasions years, and not had the right people to apply for those jobs, let alone get them. So that really starkly illustrated to me about the real realities of this skills gap in Sydney, which I know is reflected across the whole country.
JUSTINE: OK now Claire who is eligible to benefit from participating in the Foundation’s programmes?
CLAIRE: Well, I guess ultimately, it’s any young person is eligible to benefit. But having said that, the foundation in the UK and Australia does tend to focus on the communities in which the GFG Alliance has a significant presence. So it’s really in those communities that we’re really looking to have a big impact.
JUSTINE: Jonny, tell us about how the Foundation’s programmes operate in Australia?
JONNY: Really, we had a fantastic opportunity, because the Foundation in the UK had been already working with industrial cadets with a programme which was already set up, which we bought into. And very importantly, industrial cadets was started by the Prince of Wales, so we really wanted to work with Prince’s Trust here. And as it happened, they’ve got a programme called Achieve, which is all about life skills and all about enterprise skills and getting young people to be confident and ready for work and to understand the world around them.
And that was absolutely what we needed to do, and we really identified that from the pilot programme we ran last year. We also have a partnership with the CSIRO, and they are delivering the STEM-side of the component. So between those two partnerships, we can really deliver the bespoke programme, which is the one that Sanjeev really had in his mind from the early days of when we first set up here.
JUSTINE: And Claire, how is the Foundation run in the UK?
CLAIRE: We’ve been working with an organisation called EDT. And they’re an educational charity, and they’ve been the key partner for the Foundation in the UK, over the last three years. And, during that time, we’ve supported over five thousand young people, through various levels of the industrial cadet programme, which was indeed established and set up a few years ago by the Prince of Wales. In the Newport area, in South Wales, the Foundation has worked with Rewise Learning, and that’s been with young people, both in school but also disengaged young people in pupil referral units. The Foundation also funds a variety of different scholarships, both with universities, but also other organisations, such as the Arkwright scholarship programme as well.
JUSTINE: And Jonny, what type of people work with the Foundation as mentors?
JONNY: What we’ve tried to do this year is expand beyond those specifically involved in the STEM area. And what we’re really after, broadening this in the future as well, we want to have equality between men and women, we really want to have a broad spectrum of people from– They could be in HR, they could be in mining, they could be in engineering, they could be in support staff, they could be in management, they could be in any area. Because anybody who really cares about the young people in the open area, and helping them to achieve their future aims in the local area, they’re the people we want. So, their qualifications are less important, it’s more about their belief in young people and helping them be their best.
JUSTINE: And finally Claire, how can people listening to this podcast find out more about the Foundation?
CLAIRE: I’d suggest that you head to the Global GFG Foundation website, which is gfgfoundation.org, and from there you will see contact details, you’ll have links to the social media platforms, so that’s a great way of finding out a little bit more about what the foundation does, but also how you can get involved. So please do contact us, there are lots of exciting things that you can get involved in, and we’d love to hear from you.
JUSTINE: Claire, Jonny – thank you for joining us……
JONNY AND CLAIRE: Thank you, Justine.
JUSTINE: Coming next we’re talking about mental and health and wellbeing.
In our June podcast we mentioned ‘I Am Here’, a programme for GFG colleagues to become ‘I Am Here Ambassadors’, building awareness and a community around mental health and wellbeing. Joining us now is Carole-Ann Clarke, Chief Experience Officer, of ‘I am Here’. Welcome Carole-Ann, I know that you were once Captain of the Irish Women’s Rugby team – did rugby in some way lead you into the area of mental health?
CAROL ANN CLARKE: What a great question to start with Justine, and thanks for having me on today. It actually wasn’t really through rugby that I ended up in mental health, I’ve got a twenty-year corporate background actually, so I’ve worked for the likes of Diageo, Coca-Cola, and lots of other brands. And I guess along the way we just experienced negative cultures when it came to mental health and wellbeing, and a lack of support in terms of people coming to work and feeling that they, they’re in a safe environment, that they can express how they feel and get the help that they need.
JUSTINE: Now one of the things Carol Ann we’re often told is how exercise can be good for mental health and wellbeing…
CAROL ANN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s one of the key pillars, we know that exercise automatically introduces dopamine into your body, it makes you feel better, it makes you feel more positive. And I, you know, I love the fact, Justine, that you said exercise as opposed to sport because I think that a lot of people get a little bit caught up in sports and teamwork, whereas I always talk about exercise. And there’s something there for everybody, that everybody can enjoy the health benefits of any type of exercise.
JUSTINE: Ok just to put things in context then, give us an idea of the number of people at work globally that struggle with their mental health?
CAROL ANN: Statistics differ depending on the countries, but they say that, you know, one in four people generally will experience mental health issues. At ‘I am Here’, what we like to do is highlight that everybody struggles at some stage in their life, and it can be anything from a grieving parent to somebody might be struggling with a teenage child. Particularly now, in the economy of the world, a lot of people are struggling with finances which have a direct impact on your self-esteem, anxiety and stress. So really it is saying that look, everybody struggles, and then there are obviously more of the serious issues when it’s allowed to get to a crisis level, which we obviously try to prevent at ‘I am Here’, because we try to promote early intervention and often.
JUSTINE: Earlier, I mentioned the ‘I am Here’ Ambassadors – what do they do?
CAROL ANN: So the ‘I am Here’ Ambassadors are essentially a group of people within a community or a company, like GFG Alliance, who we empower what we call ‘Courage, confidence and skills’, to create compassionate conversations and compassionate connections with their fellow team members or their family members, or somebody in the community. And what they do is they try and help them express how they’re feeling, and then ultimately their role is to signpost them to support and help that is either already provided within, say GFG Alliance, such as the EAP Programme, and also support and help that exists in the community as well. And again, reflecting the diversity of issues that somebody might be facing.
JUSTINE: Grant Schmidt from GFG joined us on the June episode to talk about the launch of ‘I am Here’ across GFG, how’s it been going?
CAROL ANN: Do you know what, I have been so impressed with the engagement, and I think that’s a reflection of the team at GFG, who’ve been driving this. Apart from participation, I think over six hundred people have registered, over five hundred people have already done the Tribe Members Course, and fifty-one people have done the Ambassadors course, after a week. The overall engagement has been really, really positive, so we are delighted.
JUSTINE: If someone listening now wants to be involved, what should they do?
CAROL ANN: So there’s lots of ways, the team have been working very hard internally on the communication, starting with an open letter from the leadership team. And ultimately, there is a digital platform where you can participate in the course, where there’s also FAQs, and most importantly there is access to help and support, both internally and externally, through a resource there. Now, if you haven’t seen any of that communication, you can always go to your HR representative in your country for further information as well.
JUSTINE: Carole-Ann, good to talk to you and thanks for joining us on Spoken.
CAROL ANN: Thank you, Justine.
JUSTINE: Sanjeev, what do you hope the benefits of ‘I am Here’ will be to GFG as a business?
SANJEEV: Well, firstly it’s not exactly designed to be around benefits to the business. It’s much more designed to nurture our fundamental value of family. It is an area of concern to me, and to the senior management of the company at the moment, especially in the current circumstances, so we’ve adopted this to make sure that we can do our best to look after each other, look after all our colleagues, and make sure that their mental wellbeing is a top priority. It goes without saying, you know, mental wellbeing, if people are happy, people are in a good place, it’ll obviously be a better working environment and it’s good for the business as well. You know, we’re doing it because it’s important to our values.
JUSTINE: Ok stay with us, as we close this edition with questions from you.
Now this is your chance to speak with Sanjeev and ask a question. I’ll tell you how to get in touch in a moment. But, let’s get our first question…
ANCA: Hi Sanjeev, this is Anca Nicolau from Liberty Galati Romania. My question to you is about your recent visit to Dacia Renault plant in Arges where you have presented GFG’s automotive expertise across Europe. What was the feedback after this presentation, is GFG going to continue this joint approach of steel and aluminum towards pan European clients in the coming years?
SANJEEV: We have– First of all, when we had the Prime Minister visit the plant to announce our GREENSTEEL project, I met the Dacia CEO then, and we– I was very excited by all of the developments that Dacia’s making in the country, and the opportunities for Liberty and GFG to get involved in their supply chain in a much bigger and much more profound way than we are at the moment. So, this is definitely of high priority for us, we will develop products in Galati and other plants to serve Dacia. And the combination of steel aluminum is a unique offering, which no other company– Virtually no other company in the world can really offer to the automotive industry. We will have a very strong present after we complete the Duffel acquisition in Belgium in the near future. We will have a very, very strong offering, both in aluminum for the automotive industry, and of course in steel. So, our ability to offer this jointly, and to basically bring them together and optimize the qualities of each metal to the best use for the customer, it will be a unique offering and something which we really want to nourish in our future.
JUSTINE: Ok, on to our next question….
JIM: Hi Sanjeev, this is Jim McCredden from the Geelong Wiremill in Australia. Liberty Steel has wire businesses in both Australia and the USA. Do you have any plans for those two wire businesses that you can share with us? And also, are there any potential collaborations between Aussie Wire and American Wire that you can see happening in the future?
SANJEEV: There is a plan to formulate a global wire strategy. We have some very strong products in our wire business already in Australia, including the plant in Geelong, and in the US as well. So a lot of cross-fertilisation is planned across those businesses. We have some very strong brands and we want to bring, you know, the Australian Waratah brand to the US, and the US Redbrand to Australia, for example. And, of course, in the rest of the world as well there are various plans now forming to see how we can really become a segment expert. So, we’re going to definitely look at wire and wire products as a segment, and try to develop a strategy around that globally.
JUSTINE: Many thanks for those questions. And if you’d like to get in touch with us with a question for Sanjeev or perhaps with a comment for the podcast, do drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s email@example.com.
JUSTINE: Finally, Sanjeev, you’re always busy – so what’s in your diary for August?
SANJEEV: (laughs) What’s the diary for August? Next week I’m hoping to make a couple of plant visits in Europe, I should also be hopefully in Romania next week, then I should be in Rotherham at the end of next week. So, I mean, I’m on the move now. I’m obviously taking every precaution necessary, but I’m on the move going from plant to plant and business to business. So despite the fact that it is August, it is the holiday period, it’s still a very busy time for us.
JUSTINE: Sanjeev, good talking with you as always, thanks very much for joining us, and look forward to speaking soon on our next edition.
SANJEEV: Thank you Justine, great talking.
JUSTINE: When our podcast returns very soon, we’ll have more news and comment from across the business and don’t forget to get your questions and any comments to us. From me Justine Greene, Sanjeev Gupta and all our guests, it’s goodbye.