in Defence

Serco ‘seas’ success in Human Factors training at HMAS Watson

Posted 1 June 2022

When Australia’s international borders were shut in March 2020, the airline industry took a massive hit and Wayne Somerfield realised his flying career with Qantas was about to end but what he did not realise was an exciting career training naval warfare officers was about to begin.

Above: Wayne running a Human Factors training session for RAN officers at HMAS Watson.
Courtesy Serco

Wayne originally applied for an Assistant Instructor role at HMAS Watson, where Serco provide high-quality simulator-based maritime warfare training and training support services on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), though with no naval experience he was unable to be considered. However, what Wayne did have was more than 35-years’ experience with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Qantas, where he delivered something called ‘human factors’ training.

Former HMAS Watson Contract Manager, Terry Skinsley saw potential for this unique form of training to be applied in a naval setting and asked Wayne if he could develop a bespoke human factors training program to complement the curriculum at HMAS Watson.

Human factors training develops strategic thinking to enhance safety and comfort, reduce human error, and increase productivity. While it has traditionally been limited to the aviation industry, it can be applied to any technical industry.

Serco funded a trial during 2021 and within three months, Wayne had created his own consultancy to meet the needs of both Serco and Navy.

This was the first formal human factors training within an Australian Maritime Warfare Officer curriculum and the positive feedback was immediate. Officers said the content was both relevant and credible, given Wayne’s experience, and they appreciated that he had come from a background outside Navy but understood the Defence environment.

“While my experience is predominantly in aviation, human factors principles are universal and can be directly applied in the maritime industry,” Wayne said.

“If pilots can benefit from human factors training then so can warfighting officers captaining large naval vessels.

“Both industries involve complicated systems interfacing with humans in demanding and complex situations that must be handled swiftly and efficiently to obtain the best outcomes.”

Since the trial, the RAN has contracted Serco to provide human factors training at HMAS Watson for specific training programs, where Wayne adapts each course to meet the needs of each group.

Current HMAS Watson Contract Manager, Matt Wilson said that this initiative demonstrated Serco’s commitment to innovation, continuous improvement, and the team’s ability to develop solutions.

“The HMAS Watson training team take great pride in providing the best possible training to equip Maritime Warfare Officers with the mission critical skills required for a successful career at sea,” Matt said.

“Over the past 10 years, Serco has delivered significant innovation to the contract, and this is just one great example of that. We are pleased that Navy agrees this new form of training will benefit their officers and look forward to working with Wayne well into the future.”

With the success of the training, the RAN has now expanded the contract to include new recruits at the start of their naval careers.

Some of the elements in Wayne Somerfield’s human factors courses have already been implemented at sea.

In April, Serco was awarded a three-year contract extension to continue providing simulator-based maritime warfare training and training support services at HMAS Watson after a successful rebid in 2020, taking the contract through to 30th June 2026.

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