Australia, Bus Industry News

BusNSW leaders forum inspires the next generation

A range of industry professionals presented to the next generation of bus and coach industry leaders at the BusNSW forum

On August 25, state body BusNSW hosted its 2023 NextGen Leaders Forum, bringing together a diverse group of operator, supplier and government representatives from across NSW to Sydney to learn and share their experiences.

“The bus industry is undergoing so much change and there’s plenty of opportunity for our young leaders to help shape the future of passenger transport,” BusNSW executive director Matt Threlkeld says.

“This forum is designed to develop and promote the next generation of leaders in our industry and foster those professional connections that can help them in years to come.”

Threlkeld says this year’s edition of the forum featured a real mix of people from different industry sectors, regions across the state and types of organisations, including family businesses, multi-nationals and government agencies.

“It’s been great to be able to connect people from all parts of the industry. The diversity of voices is what makes this forum so interesting and unique,” he says.

The event was proudly sponsored by Volvo Bus Australia, continuing Volvo’s commitment to emerging leaders in the bus industry.

“Volvo Bus Australia has been a long-time sponsor of the forum and advocate for the development of young people in the industry. We’re grateful they continue to support our members through this event,” Threlkeld says.

BusNSW president John King officially welcomed the attendees on the day.

“The future of our industry is here – and the future is bright! You will hear about the key matters impacting our industry. We hope you take the opportunity to learn from the speakers here and connect with those around you,” King told attendees.

“Those of us who have been around for decades don’t have all the answers to the changes we as an industry are facing. These are changes that will shape the future, your future.

“We need young people to take up the challenge and get involved, both within their own organisations and at an association level.”

Threlkeld and Industry Development Manager Phil Whipp opened the presentation sessions, giving attendees an overview of the industry, its composition, growth opportunities and key issues and programs impacting operators and suppliers.

“The industry continues to provide more than 40 per cent of NSW’s public transport trips and delivers real value for money to the government and community,” they told the representatives.

Following the industry overview, Professor John Rose, Neil Smith Chair of Sustainable Transport for the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, University of Sydney Business School, delivered a talk on the role of the bus industry in a sustainable transport future.

Rose’s report gave insight into energy trends and what the transition to a green future for Australia’s transport industry might look like. He also outlined some of the issues yet to be resolved including battery lifecycle management, fires and thermal incidents and the provision of charging infrastructure.

“Irrespective of what you might hear in the media, Australia has a long way to go when it comes to the uptake of electronic vehicles and renewable energy policy,” Rose says.

“There is so much opportunity and I challenge you to rethink your businesses – you are no longer in the transport business, you’re in the energy business.”

The second session focused more on internal and external people management issue and began with Tim Capelin, Partner at Piper Alderman, who presented on dealing with difficult workplace issues.

The talk covered performance management, how to investigate employee claims, IR reform and what workplace issues young leaders should be aware of.


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“Performance management is just an ongoing conversation about reasonable expectations in the workplace. If these conversations are handled well, they can help create a positive workplace culture where people understand their responsibilities and are accountable for their actions,” Capelin says.

“When there is an issue, there are several steps you (as leaders) can take to ensure that you resolve them with the best possible outcome for both parties.”

Candice Lester, Director at House of PR, gave insights into how young leaders can use public relations to connect businesses with customers and the community. Her talk covered business and personal branding, public and media relations, social media and crisis communications. “Consistency and purpose are central to building a great brand, whether it’s for you as a professional or your business,” Lester says.

“In a crisis you must act quickly to minimise disruption, manage and protect your brands reputation. Social media can play a key role in building your brand, and in crisis, communicating directly to your stakeholders.”

The second half of the day was led by Business Futurist and Innovation Expert, Craig Rispin, who challenged participants to think like a futurist.

“Futurists think differently from most people. They analyse trends, anticipate significant changes and help create preferable futures using techniques developed over decades,” Rispin says.

“You too can think like a futurist – you have learned some of the most popular tools and techniques to help you see potential threats and opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward to seeing how you can apply futurist thinking to the bus industry.”

In a NextGen first, the last session was an “open space” session – a participant-led working group, drawing on all the ideas shared throughout the day. Once the key topics for discussion were determined, participants split into groups to explore their chosen topic further – key challenges and opportunities, what it means for the future and what strategies they might use to lead their organisation to be successful.

The discussion was varied, exploring how to manage driver shortages, the use of emerging technologies, the rise of artificial intelligence, industry transformation and how to ensure we bring our people along for the journey.

Stuart Woodward from Volvo Bus Australia concluded the formal part of the day, reflecting on changes within the industry and encouraging participants to connect with one another.

“It’s a small, but exciting industry. You never know just how valuable the connections you make might prove to be,” Woodward says.

The day finished with a cocktail function where the participants were able to further network in a relaxed environment.

Participants were very positive about the day citing the mixture of topics, diversity of people and the open space session as highlights of the day.

For more information on the NextGen Leaders Forum or other BusNSW events, please contact BusNSW on 02 8839 9500 or via info@busnsw.com.au.

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