People are our energy source. We play different roles but it's our diverse capabilities and unique contributions that enable us to deliver, adapt and grow as a business. In our regular ‘People in Energy’ series we spotlight the work and careers of different individuals across our organisation. Here, we explore how learning opportunities sparked a 40-year career in energy for Neale Hilton.
• Over the last 40 years Neale Hilton has worked in a variety of roles in our gas business after commencing his career as an apprentice plumber and gas fitter in 1983.
• Our Leadership, Learning & Development Program provides ongoing learning and development opportunities for everyone across our organisation to support individual growth and career development opportunities, and the success of the Group as a whole.
• Neale’s career has been shaped by mentoring and ongoing learning opportunities and he welcomes the value placed at Jemena on mentoring, team unity and inclusion.
Jemena Network Development Specialist Neale Hilton knows a thing or two about energy.
Neale recently celebrated 40 years in the business, after starting out as a 16 year-old apprentice in 1983. He commenced as an apprentice plumber and gas fitter with AGL and continued with the business as it changed ownership and brands, eventually transferring his role to Jemena. He has held a magnitude of roles throughout his career, culminating in his current role focusing on high-rise construction projects and gas connections in NSW.
Neale said his interest in the energy industry was sparked at a young age.
“My dad was an electrician, ironically in a similar role to the one I have at Jemena today. While I was still at school, I completed work experience with a local plumber who was a real mentor to me, and a great educator. I was attracted to the industry as I found the work really interesting, there was such a wide variety of roles.”
Neale joked that things were very different when he started his apprenticeship in ‘the Jurassic era’.
“I thought I was getting out of school when I entered the workforce, but apprentices had classroom schooling, uniform checks, a designated haircut and clocking in and out with our bundy clocks. I can’t imagine that happening now!
“In all seriousness, I feel lucky to have had such a grounding start to my career. There were 24 apprentices who started in my group and there’s still two of us working in the business. I’m lucky to have made strong friendships throughout my career,” he said.
Reflecting on key highlights from his career, Neale said the 2000 Olympics in Sydney stood out.
“I was part of the team at AGL that installed the new gas network through the Sydney Olympic Park site and assisted building the caldron that the flame was lit from for the opening of the Olympics. We did this in-house, and in secret. It’s amazing to think that natural gas was a part of our Australian Olympic story – who knows what renewable energy sources might be used to light the Olympic flame post-2050?!
“The best thing has been learning all the time. I feel I’ve been continually learning for the last 40 years, including from the young enthusiastic people coming through. They really give me energy.”
Jemena Network Development Manager and Neale’s current manager Stephen Angel said he is amazed at how many people he has met who have been assisted by Neale in the many years he has been with the business.
“While it is important to recognise the magnitude of Neale’s 40 years of service and the way he has been able to adapt to change, it is equally important to recognise the reputation he has earned both internally and externally with customers, trades and industry professionals.
“Mentoring and guiding the next generation of apprentices is an important part of our business, and our newer members of the team are lucky to have someone with Neale’s experience to learn from,” he said.
Neale said since his role transitioned to Jemena, he’s enjoyed working for a diverse business.
“Coming from a gas background, I’ve enjoyed learning new things about the industry on the electricity, pipelines and services side. The unique industry knowledge sharing, the value placed at Jemena today on mentoring, team unity, inclusion – these are all welcome shifts I’ve seen throughout the years. One other shift I’ve been glad to see improve over the years is the increased focus on safety and wellbeing across the industry.
“Over my time in the industry I’ve married my lovely wife, and we now have two adult sons. Life has happened while I’ve worked here,” Neale concluded.