Working as a maintenance engineer for the nickel plants represents an intense immersion in the heart of maintenance shutdowns, crucial periods when hundreds of workers collaborate over a limited period of a few weeks to accomplish a multitude of tasks, all in strict compliance with deadlines and safety standards. Production shutdowns, which interrupt a significant portion of the plant's activity, are of great importance due to the scale of daily activity.
Deciding to become a consultant for such shutdowns can be a powerful catalyst for a professional career. Below, we explore 5 reasons why this experience is attractive.
1. Develop your expertise
Maintenance shutdowns in the nickel industry require specialized expertise. Working as a consultant allows you to develop specialized skills and become a recognized expert in the preparation, planning, coordination and execution of maintenance shutdowns.
According to Yves, Lead for maintenance shutdowns and consultant for Easy Skill in New Caledonia, "It can be motivating for a young professional, such as a boilermaker or technician, to work on projects of this scale. The challenge is at the heart of the appeal, and it's important that these young people are self-reliant, resourceful and able to handle responsibility without constantly waiting for help."
In addition to this, the discovery of a new country, territory and exceptional factory can be motivating factors. Of course, the financial aspect is also an important lever, but beyond that, the adventure, the discovery and the contribution to a complex project can be sources of motivation.
2. Manage large-scale projects and develop your managerial skillsWorking as a maintenance shutdown consultant offers the opportunity to progress within different roles over time. With teams of up to 200-300 people, key positions include:
- Supervisors, who manage the work of subcontractors carrying out operations (welding, mechanics, piping, electricity, refractories, etc.) on several sites in the same zone.
- The zone manager coordinates the work carried out in his zone and supervises the supervisors.
- The execution lead has overall responsibility for the power plant or factory.
Starting out as a supervisor can provide a stepping stone to more extensive management responsibilities. Supervision requires real know-how in management, coordination and communication, which is not necessarily innate in all technicians.
According to Yves, "There's a real apprenticeship in supervision. For example, some very competent technicians who usually work with their hands find themselves supervising. For example, I had the case of a technician in his fifties who had always worked manually. After taking on a supervisory role, he had a blast and wanted to come back for the next assignment. This represented a real evolution in his career, from welding technician to supervisor of companies doing the same work".
3. Developing entrepreneurial skills
To become a maintenance shutdown consultant, it's essential to have a solid technical background as well as entrepreneurial skills. According to Yves, "Sometimes we hire experts for specific positions, but in the end, that's not what we're looking for. We like autonomous individuals, good managers, with a minimum command of their trade, without necessarily being experts. The aim is for them to be able to drive the projects forward with their own expertise. In short, we're not looking for specialized experts, but rather people who are autonomous and competent in their field. It's essential that they can coordinate and manage their work without being constantly directed."
It's important to be a creative resourceful person who is able to imagine solutions. Taking part in a maintenance shutdown is a daily, if not hourly, challenge. So it's necessary to find solutions that weren't necessarily the ones envisaged from the beginning, constantly changing and adapting.
4. Financial opportunities
From a financial point of view, working on a maintenance shutdown can be advantageous for a young engineer because of the extra hours (60 hours a week, instead of the usual 40 hours), which means that in five weeks you can earn more than on a conventional project. It is possible for an engineer to take part in up to four maintenance shutdowns per year (it could vary depending on the limit of overtime hours in the country). Salaries tend to be higher, mainly due to the nature of short assignments, often involving expatriation.
5. Internal and international perspectives
An important point to emphasize is that the experience gained during a maintenance shutdown is not limited to the mining industry. Heavy industry also carries out maintenance shutdowns, opening up other opportunities in different industries, whether abroad or in a variety of sectors (quarry, refinery, production plant, etc.).
Within companies themselves, it is not uncommon to integrate employees from different departments to take part in maintenance shutdowns, responding to specific requests. Indeed, their knowledge of the site enables better coordination on certain sites or specific areas. In addition, it is common practice among large structures carrying out major shutdowns to set up a dedicated maintenance cell, involving meticulous planning and rigorous preparation. In this way, novices taking part in such maintenance shutdowns have privileged access to these specialized units, acquiring essential technical skills.
In conclusion, becoming a maintenance shutdown consultant for nickel plants offers a unique opportunity to develop cutting-edge expertise, manage large-scale projects while progressing in a variety of roles, hone your managerial and entrepreneurial skills, all while benefiting from attractive financial opportunities.
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