Australia’s electricity transmission market is on the cusp of a boom, but not just any old boom. According to Quanta Lines President Mark Gould, the next five years are forecast to be a “once-in-a-generation growth spurt”, which presents tremendous opportunities for companies operating in the industry.
“The transmission market is at the beginning of a boom period and that’s really exciting,” Mark enthuses. “There are some massive projects on the go.”
Quanta Lines provides services in the construction of transmission and distribution powerlines in the utilities, renewables, mining and residential markets, placing it in a prime position to capitalise on this exponential growth.
After starting out in 1994 as NJ Construction, a small business based in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, the business was purchased by North American company Quanta Inc in 2016. Last year, it rebranded as Quanta Lines and moved its headquarters to Melbourne.
The company now boasts the largest fleet of specialised equipment in the country and is part of a leading global network of powerline contractors.
In addition to rebranding, a new management team was also appointed in 2019, with Mark at the helm. While Mark was attracted to the idea of joining the company ahead of the industry boom, he was also excited about the prospect of building a brand new team.
With more than 30 years of leadership experience across a range of industries, Mark has a proven track record of building high-performing teams, and he clearly thrives on the challenge it presents. “I think my biggest achievement over the past 12 months was building that team, and we’ve managed to rebrand and reposition the business,” he says.
With the backing of Quanta Inc, Quanta Lines has access to resources, equipment and technology that enables it to provide world-class execution with local delivery. The biggest challenge facing Mark and his team, however, is a lack of skilled labour in the industry.
“There’s already a shortage and it’s going to get worse. There’s a skills shortage for lineworkers and associated trades to work on these big lines that need to be built over the next few years,” Mark explains.
“Quanta Lines, as well as our competitors and customers, recognise this and we know we can’t just recruit off each other because that’s not going to solve the problem. We need to train our own people, whether that be from apprentice stage or cross-training them from other trades and upskilling them.”
As a result, Quanta Lines has partnered with Thomson Bridge, a registered training organisation within the high-voltage electrical industry.
“We’ve selected them as a partner for two reasons; one is to coordinate our training. In this industry, there is a heavy training aspect for all the skilled trades. They have to do yearly refreshers and keep their skills up to date, and that has to be signed off by an independent assessor,” Mark says. “The second reason is to help us on a growth path by training more people.”
As one of the world’s largest electrical contractors, Quanta Inc is made up of more than 200 individual companies around the world and 48,000 employees. The company places huge emphasis on training.
This includes the North West Lineman College in Idaho, with four campuses across the US, and the Quanta Advanced Training Centre at the 890-hectare Lazy Q Ranch, a state-of-the-art training facility in La Grange, Texas.
“The ranch provides training for everything associated with high-voltage power,” Mark explains. “They run courses on site with live-in accommodation for the students.”
To make the most of this facility, Quanta Lines is working with Thomson Bridge to develop a four- to five-week course tailored to Australian requirements that can be run at the Lazy Q Ranch.
“The industry is going into a period when there are not enough transmission lineworkers, but there are a lot of distribution lineworkers who have been made redundant, or are about to be. So, if we can cross-skill them we have a ready pool of labour, because they’re far more advanced than an apprentice,” Mark says.
“A distribution lineworker can do this bespoke, competency based training in a month, rather than the year it would normally take. We will also offer a similar course for apprentices to help them become more productive quicker. We think this is going to be a key point of difference where we can use the scale and the world-class expertise of Quanta tailored to some specific requirements that are going to be needed here in Australia. With Thomson Bridge’s local knowledge and expertise, coupled with Quanta’s training facilities, we believe we can create a competitive advantage for Quanta Lines and create opportunities for local people to increase their skills and enter an exciting industry at an exciting time.”
“We believe we can create a competitive advantage for Quanta Lines and create opportunities for local people to increase their skills.”
Quanta in Australia is focusing on using its local and international resources to provide a complete turnkey solution for its clients’ major work programs. These include renewable energy grid connections, grid strengthening, extension and augmentation, and interstate grid connections.
“Our major clients are the transmission network service providers. They have an enormous amount of work coming through the pipeline, and all of this work has to be done over the next five to seven years,” Mark explains.
“The transmission market is at the beginning of a boom period and that’s really exciting.”
While Quanta Lines is primarily a transmission lines company, Mark says it’s able to provide more services to its clients by teaming up with sister companies CPP and Nacap.
“Quanta is also bringing in a company called Valard, a Quanta company from Canada, to do very large transmission line projects. Some of the lines to be built are 800–1,000 kilometres long. We aspire to grow to that, but Valard has done projects of this size overseas.
“One of the problems in Australia is limited local experience in building large lines, because none of them have been built in the last 10–20 years. The power of Quanta and Quanta Lines is that we’ve got local content and local capability and we’re enhancing it with capacity, innovation and expertise that has built large lines like this before. It’s very exciting.”
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