Crafting Careers in Agriculture with Lesley Leyland who shares how Austral Fisheries is well ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining the best people

Continuing our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series, today we welcome the fishing industry to the Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) fold and look at how Austral Fisheries is well ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining the best people.

Lesley Leyland, head of Quality Safety and People at Austral Fisheries, believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom. With primary school students identifying Global Goal “life below the ocean” as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.

“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet Global Goal 14: Life below the Water.  We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”

Lesley Leyland describes herself as Chief of Staff for Austral Fisheries, as she oversees human resources, Quality, Safety and People for fleets working from the deep seas of the sub-Antarctic to Australia’s northern reaches. With a background in freight forwarding Lesley joined Austral 22 years ago as their export coordinator. CEO David Carter joined the company as a deckhand 43 years ago. Both are testament to a workforce culture that supports its people and is rewarded with loyalty. So how does this process begin?

“We’re always looking for people with talent, passion and attitude,” Lesley says. “We can teach a lot of things with on-the-job training and we like to upskill our people, but you can’t teach passion and talent. When we see talent, we will invest in it.”

This investment includes PYiA’s first fisheries participant, Bryan Van Wyk who will join the Young Farming Champions program this year and bring a new voice to the team.

“We all fall into the agricultural space but there is not enough spotlight on fishers,” Lesley says. “It’s not just about fishing anymore. We’re about plastics in the ocean, we’re about environment and making sure we have a sustainable product for market. It is important for our business to have a voice and Bryan is a young man who is passionate about the marine environment.”

Upskilling and retaining staff is another critical aspect of the Austral workforce. With an aging executive committee (average age 55) Lesley oversaw the introduction of a leadership development program for middle management.

“There is a lot of diversity in our business with a huge amount of expertise and experience, and so we developed this in-house program as a strategy going forward. We noticed a real lift in middle management and a heightened sense of worth and responsibility.”

Lesley believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom and, with primary school students identifying life below the ocean as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.

“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet SDG:14 Life below the Water.  We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”

Young Australians like Bryan Van Wyk are excited about the opportunity to have careers that ensure we have sustainable oceans

 

2021 Young Farming Champions – Introducing Bryan Van Wyk

Picture You in Agriculture is thrilled to welcome the fishing industry into our fold and our very first fishing YFC Bryan Van Wyk. Bryan is a shining example of one who is living his best life, working in a career he loves.

Let’s meet him.

Bryan can currently be found in Cairns or on the ocean in his role managing prawn trawlers for Austral Fisheries, but his story begins on the northern coast of Tasmania in Burnie where rock pools inspired a life-long appreciation for the marine environment.

“None of my family fished or had strong connections with the ocean but as a child I was fascinated with rock pools and would spend hours discovering all the different sea animals that lived in them. As I grew older, I found myself spending all my free time either fishing, spearfishing, or diving. The ocean was my happy place and I wanted to find ways to spend more time on the water and expand my knowledge of all creatures living beneath the surface,” he says.

Bryan’s happy place

Bryan attended Burnie High School and Hellyer College (also in Burnie).

“I remember a critical moment at school where all students were asked to think about what they wanted to do when they grew up. At the time I was not exactly sure what to pick but I remember being told that if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. I knew that I loved the ocean, so I began a journey towards studying marine science and tailored my schooling towards that goal.”

Post school Bryan continued to work towards his goal, completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Marine Environment) with first class honours at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston. Following a similar career path to Austral Fisheries CEO David Carter, Bryan was offered a job with Austral in his final year and in 2015 relocated to Cairns.

“It is rare for a graduate fresh out of university and with no experience to be offered a job with such a reputable company so I jumped at the opportunity.”

Bryan is now living the life he loves in Australia’s northern climes, as head of operations for Austral’s northern prawn fishing fleet. In this varied job he manages 11 trawlers, which involves monitoring the catch, product logistics, packaging distribution, equipment and ship maintenance, vessel surveys and liaison with industry bodies. He is also involved with bycatch reduction, product quality improvement and new innovations.

But beyond the job Bryan has high aspirations for fishing and the marine world he so cherishes.

“I would like to become a respected influencer and leader with a positive impact for the industry I work in. I believe that one day I will be leading my organisation in the Northern Prawn Fishery and hope to maintain a profitable operation while staying true to important values such as environmental sustainability and crew wellbeing. I would also like to empower others around me to think about the bigger picture and work collectively to tackle common threats such as climate change, pollution, bycatch and water development.”

With these goals in mind Bryan and Austral have turned to the Young Farming Champions program.

“I hope to learn from other people and their experiences in different industries. I want to compare issues and stories and discover strategies taken to overcome problems. I am keen to grow my personal development and network with like-minded people along the way and to sharpen my public speaking and communication skills.”

Welcome Bryan. We look forward to working with you on your YFC journey and beyond.

We also look forward to sampling some of these fabulous Austral products