HUNTERNET's new chief executive officer Ivan Waterfield believes the Hunter has the "smarts, skills and technology" to continue to reinvent itself and grow in the pandemic setting.
On Monday the region's peak manufacturing body announced the appointment of Mr Waterfield, chairman of the HunterNet Group Training Company board since 2009.
Mr Waterfield, who hasheld general manager roles locally with WesTrac, UGL and Downer, and globally with Alstom and Bombardier, replaces Tony Cade, who died suddenly in December, 2020.
The 58-year-old said there was a "groundswell" of sentiment at the federal government level and within the broader community to bring manufacturing back onshore and he believes the next five to ten years will be crucial to the sector.
"The pandemic has made it very obvious that we are very much an island but out of that adversity there's been a switch from the traditional line of 'Liberals save money, Labor spends it' ...there has been an alignment, if you like, and [governments] are now spending and it's because we've seen ... we have to look after ourselves," he said. "Time and again, out of adversity comes opportunity and that's what COVID-19 has done. It's triggered people's mindset to be opportunist and they are saying, 'Right, we'll put our toe in the water and try something new."
Mr Waterfield says the Hunter has "always been at the forefront of regeneration", moving from the BHP era to become an advanced manufacturing force, with emerging new technologies including renewables.
"Some of the green technologies were [once] probably catchphrases than drivers but they are key to our future - but we need to recognise our traditional manufacturing sector as well," he said.
Mr Waterfield - a qualified tool fitter with a mechanical engineering degree and masters in advanced manufacturing management and project management who was born in the British transport manufacturing hub of Derby - says his focus lies on reengaging with HunterNet's founding members as well as the "bigger end of town".
"I understand, whether it's from a shop floor or boardroom - I am quite a chameleon in that respect, and it helps me from a leadership perspective," the Belmont resident said.
HunterNet chairman Steve Tolley said there were applicants locally, across Australia and globally however Mr Waterfield was a "perfect fit" having vast experience in sectors HunterNet represents.
"He is passionate about assisting organisations achieve transformational change and growth," he said, adding that Mr Waterfield played a pivotal role in reviving the fortunes of HunterNet's Group Training Company.
Mr Waterfield's appointment came as the latest Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index rose by a further 1.8 points to 61.7 in April, indicating a seventh consecutive month of recovery from the severe disruptions of COVID-19 in the second quarter of 2020. It was the index's highest monthly result since March 2018.
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