Following your curiosity: Marcus’ apprenticeship journey
Eighteen months into a four-year electrical apprenticeship, Marcus Morgan, 23, already has his sights set on maintaining the instrument panels on Shell’s floating LNG facility, Prelude, moored 475 kilometres off the Western Australian coast. “The sheer size of it…it’s unique…it’s innovative…,” he said.
Marcus’ interest lies in examining and calibrating electrical instrumentation, a specialty he hopes will launch a sustained career in industrial-scale electrical maintenance.
“The instruments will measure flow and temperature as the product going through the pipework - how fast it’s going through, the pressure it’s going through at …to make sure things are in good working order.”
Marcus’ interest in all things electrical started with an inherent fascination to understand the way things work. And why sometimes they don’t.
“From when I was young, l always wanted to know how things worked,” he said. Video game controllers that conked out were just asking to be pulled apart to figure out what was broken. From there it was onto remote control cars and planes. “If it wasn’t working I’d pull them apart. With remote control cars, I’d rewire them.”
Even the poles and wires that carry electricity to people’s homes was a source of curiosity. “I’d look at the big power lines and be amazed at how electricity gets from one spot to another, how it really works. Not everyone knows how it works.”
Marcus was in Darwin to born to a a family whose ancestry is Nyikina, an Indigenous language from the Kimberley region, and Arrente, an Indigenous language group from the Alice springs region.
He moved with his family 4000 kilometres south to Busselton for primary school, and back 4000 kilometres to Darwin to finish secondary school.
Marcus then commenced a bridging course at Murdoch University in Perth. Starting off in an accounting course, he soon discovered that it was not as exciting as he’d hoped. Switching over for a semester to a different discipline, electrical power engineering, was a light-bulb moment.
“I loved it,” he said. “I wanted to stick with the electrical side of things and started applying for apprenticeships, and got one.” He’s now an apprentice with Shell contractor, Programmed.
Marcus’ journey to become an electrical apprentice and to work on Prelude has been helped by the support Marcus has received from the Wirrpanda Foundation, a leading Indigenous community organisation that Shell sponsors under its social investment programme in Western Australia. The foundation helps equip young indigenous people with the skills and confidence to enter the workforce.
Marcus also credits the positive influence his uncle had on him as he was growing up.
“From a young age, my uncle has been one of my main role models. He was a very motivated person: he’s been in the defence force, as private security for the Japanese Embassy and then became an entrepreneur running his own business. He’s never had anything given to him. He’s always worked for it. He’s done really well for himself.”
Marcus’ first interaction with the Wirrpanda Foundation was to seek help with lessons to get a driver’s licence, something useful for any jobseeker to have, but essential in a big state like WA. From there, Marcus was guided by a Foundation mentor and before long, opportunity knocked.
Marcus’ apprenticeship has two years of structured learning to attain Level II certificates in operations and engineering, followed by a Level III certificate as an industrial electrician and a Level IV in instrumentation. The final two years are Fly-In-Fly-Out work placements.
He might not have stepped foot on the deck yet, but Prelude is on the radar.
“I’m hoping to get out on Prelude. I’m really looking forward to that. I want to stay in this industry as I see it being a worthwhile career. I want to work my way up to supervisor level out on Prelude and make a good career out of it,” he said. “I’ve found the thing I can make a career out of.”
Marcus realises that with the passage of time, the demographics of the industry inevitably changes. Marcus wants to be well-positioned to be among the next generation of gas industry workers. “A lot of the people out on the rigs are older males in their 40s and 50s. This program is helping younger people to get into the industry,” he said.
The idea of being on Prelude is not all work, though. Ever the keen sportsman – who counts soccer (playing centre-back), Aussie Rules (alternating between ruck and full forward), rugby (wing) and swimming among his recreational pursuits – Marcus is keen to have a swing at Prelude’s onboard golf simulator. “From what I’ve heard the facilities are amazing,” he said. “The golf simulator sounds pretty cool.”