January 9, 2024

Turbo Talk with Fortress' Sarah Moynihan

Sarah Moynihan, our Turbo Talk guest, is HEAD OF PEOPLE, CULTURE & CHANGE at Fortress Collision Repair Services.

Moynihan has tertiary qualifications in psychology and HR, and 20 years experience at a senior level in the mining, linear construction, and automotive repair industries. She is a pivotal contributor to senior operating, executive and advisory boards, providing strategic people, culture, and development leadership. Moynihan is also significant contributor to the Australian Collision Industry Alliance (ACIA), AS A DIRECTOR ON THE BOARD AND LEAD OF THE DIVERSITY & INCLUSION WORKING COMMITTEE.

How did you get started in the industry?

I joined the industry early in 2018 providing HR and WHS Management across a national hail repair group. I had previously gained 15 years’ experience in blue collar industries such as mining and construction and was eager to roll up my sleeves and work in other industries facing significant skills shortages. I utilised my recruitment and talent management capabilities to resource the group's smaller regional storms and multiple catastrophic events. Management of these storms required 100s of paint, panel, PDR and support staff within weeks. In 2019 I was seconded as General Manager of a large Caravan Repair chain and gained valuable exposure to operations, people, and client relationship management.

What do you do now?

I was offered the role of Head of People, Culture & Change when Fortress Collision Repair Services was established 2021. We were a small team, with a wealth of industry experience and knowledge, aiming to build something better. Our vision from the very beginning was about the people; recognising that our success will be a credit to the skills, capability, and culture of our workforce. With a passion for people and development, this role has evolved, and I have had the pleasure to work on projects with the wider team to attract and retain the best, implement an industry leading apprenticeship program, and develop multiskilled training and learning opportunities that provide career pathways for our team.  The exposure I have gained working closely with Joe Walsh, Mark Reid and more recently Peter Taylor has been invaluable. Our team, their skills and industry knowledge, and the great culture we have embedded, is what makes this job so engaging and rewarding.

What do you like the most about the industry?

With a clear understanding that in our industry, successful performance is a product of our people; what I like most is there is so many opportunities to make positive changes and improvements to training and development. I love that there are realistic and achievable pathways for apprentices, which lead to rewarding trade careers, and can evolve into operations support roles such as estimating and production management, and eventually senior leadership positions. The industry is also maturing to a level where there is an expectation for higher standards of compliance with safety and workplace law management. Ensuring good, fair processes and safe workplaces is a priority in this industry if we are to attract and retain the workforce we need for the future.

As an industry, we still face systemic skills shortages and training issues. I’d had a lot of experience with these issues in my mining career, working on QLD and NSW government minerals and coal councils to overcome skills shortages and poor-quality training. The last few months has been inspiring with the momentum the ACIA is building. Working together is key and I especially think the automotive repair industry will pull together to collectively address these issues.

What do you most dislike about the industry?    

Pre-conceived and often uneducated and outdated assumptions about our industry and career opportunities, including earning potential and pathways. There seems to be a lack of understanding of the opportunities in our industry for work and training ready youth. Awareness campaigns at a national level are required targeting schools/career councilors, parents, VET organisations, and employment agencies. There is also inadequate focus on minority groups. Attracting more females, First Nations People, neurodiverse and people with disabilities into trades roles has been extremely successful in other ‘male dominated, blue collar industries’ that faced skills shortages. Building onboarding, induction, and training programs that are inclusive and relevant to different learning and support requirements, is a great first step in this direction.

Who do you most admire?

I admire individuals who have a hunger to learn and succeed. They thrive on knowledge and achievement and need to be identified early in their careers. It’s important they are placed in development programs that expose them to different opportunities that lead to new skills and capabilities, keeping them engaged in career pathways. Those that are humble about their knowledge and in senior/executive roles, but that you still find on the workshop floor mentoring the next generation are also very admirable. I guess this is why our vison at Fortress is underpinned by a philosophy of “If you grow, we grow; and if we grow, you grow”.

Cars. Your first, dream car and current car?

I grew up on the Northern Gold Coast in the 80s, there were only two buses per day, and I was very isolated from my fellow teenagers. The day I turned old enough for a casual job I started at Macca’s and purchased my first car before I could get a licence. It was Mitsubishi Sigma Chrysler, and I’m grateful for its solid construction as I wasn’t overly skilled in avoiding other vehicles. On the plus side I had my first experience with the insurance and collision repair process at 18.  Today I’m a mum and get around in a late model Toyota Rav 4 Edge which is perfect for work between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the ‘taxi’ driving of teenagers each weekend. My dream car would have to be a Mazda series 7 or 8 RX7, love a rotary engine and this car is super sexy (in hindsight, wish I had bought one in the late 90s $$$).

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