Meet the team: Introducing Rodney Rolfe, National Learning and Development Manager
With a distinguished career spanning 45 years with Wormald, Rod Rolfe is one of the fire protection industry’s most experienced and respected professionals. He has received numerous accolades throughout the years, including the prestigious Barry Lee Technical Excellence Award in 2017.
How did you start working for Wormald?
I started my career in 1975 as an apprentice electrician and two years later was given an opportunity to become one of the first trainee fire protection engineers with Wormald International, which was what the company was called back then. I’ve been with Wormald ever since and worked across numerous roles relating to fire protection, from a fire alarm systems installer to a sprinkler fitter (or colloquially referred to as a “bucket boy”).
Over the years I’ve gained extensive experience inspecting and testing all types of systems including commissioning and project managing dry and wet emergency service systems. I’ve also held sales roles including sales manager where I was responsible for selling and estimating and gained valuable business management experience. Today, I’m responsible for Wormald’s technical training programs, which involves reviewing technical issues that support the business.
Tell us about your background
Over the years I’ve obtained a number of formal and informal qualifications from university and TAFE in order to expand my capabilities and add value to the Wormald business. The management and training qualifications include a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management, Associate Diploma of Adult Education, and Certificate IV Assessment & Workplace Training.
My technical qualifications include an Electrical Engineering Certificate, majoring in electronics, Certificate III in Electrical Mechanics, Certificate III in Fire Protection Inspecting & Testing, and a number of other qualifications. By completing these recognised courses, I’m formally qualified to undertake electrical, communication and fire protection work including installation, testing, design and certification of systems.
My commitment to education has resulted in my being recognised by both Wormald and various fire industry bodies. It’s an honour to be the recipient of awards such as the Barry Lee Technical Excellence Award and the A.V. Viscogliosi Award, that recognises outstanding technical contribution and technical excellence. Currently I’m the only recipient of both these awards, which are issued by the Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia).
Can you explain your current role and responsibilities?
I have a diverse role at Wormald that has several areas of responsibility mainly focused on training. This includes managing our Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for compliance and delivery of our qualifications around Australia both for internal staff and external clients.
I’m also responsible for managing Wormald’s online learning system WALDO, providing technical training to meet specific needs for the business, overseeing the qualification assessments for our technicians undertaking RTO qualifications for licence requirements and provide technical support to the business for design, certification, routine service operational requirements as well as managing regulation compliance related enquiries.
I’m also qualified and have accreditation to undertake building inspections and certification as required, which is helpful for the business when other engineers are not available, and I represent Wormald on several technical committees relating to Standards Australia.
What do you enjoy most about working at Wormald?
I’ve had a fantastic career at Wormald and there are many things I’ve enjoyed during my 45 years with the business. Apart from being rewarded with job security, I’ve made a lot of friends at Wormald over the years and I value and enjoy building relationships with my colleagues.
My range of work duties varies daily and allows me to use my expertise to assist the business in creative ways. This includes educating our clients and technicians on critical fire safety risks and implementing important new initiatives for the industry.
While I’ve had many memorable moments over the years, one experience that particularly stands out was when I was working as the Special Hazard Sales Manager for one of our businesses in the 1990s. I was asked by the Australian Museum, as their business contact, to conduct a fire safety briefing for the museum’s senior staff following an accidental discharge of their fire suppression extinguishing agent within their spirit store. The incident had resulted in five museum staff being taken to hospital for observation; the staff members were later released with no issues. The topic was about the safety of the fire suppression gases being used within the museum for fire protection. I was advised that only some senior staff would be attending but when I turned up the entire theatre was full. The audience not only consisted of museum staff, but several NSW Fire Brigade District Commanders, Workcover representatives and a professor of toxicology, who I was introduced to before the session started. Fortunately for me, I was across the life safety issues at that time and the options for gaseous agents. I managed to turn the hostile crowd around by listening to their concerns and answering their questions. At the end of the two-hour session they were satisfied that they had a suitable fire suppression agent protecting their valuable artifacts and notably, following the session, the museum gave us another order.
What do you find most interesting about the fire protection industry?
I love learning about new things affecting the industry, the engineering behind fire protection systems and the legislative requirements required to meet building standards today.
The recent reforms in NSW and the process for Annual Fire Safety Statements (AFSS) has led to more legislation which has resulted in huge change for the industry in NSW. The legislative reforms will continue to be important, particularly as they are adopted Australia-wide. In addition, the legislation reforms that were introduced several years ago in response to gas cylinder handling were also interesting; it is now a criminal offence to undertake this work without a licence.
I’ve remained committed to working within the business to ensure our staff our competently trained and hold the appropriate licences. Every so often, legislative requirements change and so it’s important to be across the changes and developments affecting the industry. As most states have their own unique requirements, it’s crucial to be informed.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Being a grandfather, I love spending time with my grandchildren who keep me active. I also enjoy spending quality time with my girlfriend; we enjoy drinking fine wine, discovering new favourite foods and salsa dancing, which has been a great passion of mine ever since I took some lessons a number of years ago.