Case Studies, Education, Training

Award recipient praised for outstanding leadership

The Alex Northover Award, presented by the IQA and sponsored by the Australian Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation (AIQEF), recognises the best prepared portfolio of evidence submitted to a registered training organisation (RTO) by an applicant seeking accreditation in the Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma in an Australian national training package (applicable to their employment in the extractive or related industries).

In 2016 Darren Zanow was the recipient of the Alex Northover Award. He is the managing director of Zanow Concrete & Quarries in Fernvale, near Brisbane, in south-east Queensland.

The family company this year celebrates 60 years in business and initially supplied screened sand and gravel products to the construction industry, councils and landscape markets in the Ipswich and Brisbane regions. In 1997 Zanow commenced extraction of sand and gravel in Fernvale and has expanded its product line to incorporate concrete, crushed aggregates, gabion, drainage and other rock products.

In 2014 the business started production of a full range of hard rock products at Kalbar Quarry, for supply to Ipswich, the Scenic Rim and Brisbane.

Darren says there is no role in the family business that he hasn’t held.

“Company CEO. Secretary. Finance officer,” he said. “Planning and development, including managing all applications and greenfield quarry developments and approvals. Workshop and mechanical. Welder, boilermaker. Weighbridge and dispatch. Plant operator. Excavator, loader, dump truck, and dozer operator. Cleaner. Concrete batcher. Farmer.”

Darren’s previous qualifications include a Certificate IV in quarry operations and a Diploma of Horticulture from the University of Queensland, plus various licences and tickets for operating plant and equipment.

He decided to undertake additional education and training to “further my knowledge and formalise what I have been doing all my life”.


As a result, he applied for the Diploma of Surface Operations Management program with RTO the Australian Training Alliance (ATA). According to the ATA, the Diploma provides managers with targeted training and development programs that will help them become stronger leaders and more effectively contribute to ongoing company success and the achievement of business goals.

The Diploma consists of 13 units of competency, including budget management, workplace leadership, facilitation of continuous improvement, safe workplaces, team effectiveness, site plant implementation and resource management, stockpile management, site water management and environmental management.

Darren offered Zanow’s Fernvale Quarry site for a detailed inspection by all diploma participants during the water management and environmental management workshop sessions.

Two other core competency units – implementing and maintaining legal compliance requirements and controlling risk management systems – were of particular interest to Darren.

“In my former role as CEO for 10 years, risk management and compliance were front and centre to my job, along with personnel management and finance control,” he said. “I have had a lot of experience with these important business skill sets.”

Darren also undertook a couple of elective units – implementation of a pit plan and undertaking project work – because he felt he could “learn a lot from these two electives considering the direction the [Zanow] business was heading”.

Darren found it was a “difficult task” juggling his work, family life and study commitments, but it was ultimately worthwhile.

“I sacrificed some of my leisure time, such as water skiing, dirt bike riding and my community work, but if you want a job done, you just do it and get it done.”


In a submission to the IQA, the ATA’s general manager of learning and development Philippe Clement nominated Darren for the Alex Northover Award for “his outstanding assessment work and positive contribution throughout the workshop discussions and group activities … His portfolio is of very high quality and can be implemented in any workplace.”

Mike Cameron, the program facilitator and the ATA’s manager of learning and development, also praised Darren for his leadership skills and his work ethic, which involved including three members of his team on the Diploma program and guiding and supporting them when the “going got tough”.

“Darren, as the managing director of the company, has been instrumental in implementing many aspects of the learning from the units of competency that comprise the Diploma of Surface Operations Management,” Cameron said.

With encouragement from the ATA facilitators, Darren submitted his portfolio of work to the IQA. However, he never expected that anything more would come of it.

“I was very surprised to be nominated, let alone win!” Darren said.

“Conducting the extractive industry and its ancillary businesses is what I have done since completing my original Diploma post-high school. I have lived and breathed it all my life and had to make it work at every point to keep the business prosperous. To win was a humbling experience.”

Darren encourages RTOs to nominate the top Certificate IV and Diploma students from graduates in 2016 for the Alex Northover Award in 2017.

“With reference to the Diploma course, the knowledge gained from not only the facilitator, but interacting with industry peers, is a terrific experience,” he said.

“If you apply yourself, you will gain so much from it on so many levels.

“In terms of nominating for the award, it is always a great experience to be honoured for the hard work you put in to your education. This award achieves industry recognition but is also a terrific experience.”

The Alex Northover Award consists of a $2500 grant provided by the AIQEF. The AIQEF also provides an allowance of up to $2000 for each of the top four Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma candidates in 2017 to attend this year’s IQA conference in Toowoomba.

At the conference, each nominee will be acknowledged and the award winner will be announced. The conference will be hosted from 4 to 6 October.

The other nominees for the 2016 Alex Northover Award were Diploma graduate Matthew Banks (who completed his training through Mine Resilience) and Certificate IV graduate Stuart McLean (who trained in house at Boral’s RTO).

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