The STAR Academy – Steve Mehlbaum

General news

At STAR, we work every day to improve, grow and develop everyone we work with. Our specialists, those in our own company, and the people in the organisations of our clients. It is our firm belief that growth and development is the key to progress and success for all.
But what exactly does that mean for our work? This time, we will talk to Steve Mehlbaum about the STAR Academy: “We help specialists get the most out of their careers!”


The creation of the STAR Academy
“Seven years ago, we observed an ageing population in certain specialisations,” explains Steve Mehlbaum. “It was becoming difficult to find young planners for our clients. The role of work planner was not particularly appealing to young people, despite it being a solid foundation for a prosperous career. After all, it brings together multiple aspects of various jobs into one. So we sat down with clients to devise an effective way to attract young talent and promote the value and prospects of a job in planning.”

The idea was not to offer candidates ‘just any old course’, according to Steve. “On the contrary, we envisaged taking them on a journey that starts when they graduate and ends when they are a senior or even lead planner.”

And so the STAR Academy traineeships were born. “It was such a success that we started looking at how we could apply our approach to other disciplines, and we soon set up traineeships for project managers, safety officers, document controllers and various disciplines relevant to Operations and Commissioning.”


Non-stop development
The focus of the STAR Academy is to look at the personal development of each individual specialist. “What is your ambition? In which direction do you want to grow? These questions are central to the Academy,” says Steve. “Its major strength lies in the interplay of theory and practice in combination with effective, personal guidance and support. It ensures that the threshold for people to come on board is low, whilst the bar for progress can be set as high as anyone likes.”


It is worth mentioning is that the STAR Academy is also open to seasoned staff with plenty of experience under their belt. These specialists sometimes consider further training to be a bit intimidating or shameful after fifteen or twenty years in a fixed routine. For whatever reason, that’s understandable. But we want people to realise that moving forward is always a good thing.”

“We want to help everyone seize new opportunities. Regardless of the stage of their career.”

“Standing still is a waste of a career. There is always more potential. Perhaps you eventually want to lead a team, or take on a completely different role altogether. Looking beyond today’s boundaries and getting people across them is STAR Academy’s goal.”

It’s ultimately down to ambition, says Steve: “We can encourage people, but the best motivation is that of the specialists themselves.”


The knowledge you need
“Essentially, the STAR Academy has its own version of the power wheel,” says Steve. “We work on very exciting projects at STAR, and that’s where we discover what knowledge and skills our clients need, which is in turn what we teach at the STAR Academy.”

How do you know whether the traineeships are a success? “We assess them by talking to the specialists themselves and the supervisors on their projects. By analysing the process and results from different perspectives, we continue to fine-tune the courses in close consultation with the training institutes with which we work. And it’s a great success: the quality of our traineeships keeps improving.”

“It is important to us that courses are accredited, so that our specialists receive internationally recognised certificates, which we can use to reassure our clients of their quality and professional acumen.”

The story of the STAR Academy is already being told. Among professionals, but also among clients. Steve: “Last year, a valued client, Bilfinger, asked us to brainstorm with them about training their staff. We joined forces and developed a work-preparation traineeship for the Dutch market together with the VOMI Academy. The fact that Bilfinger asked us to help is a great compliment to STAR, and we’ve been asked to do the same again in 2020 for the Belgian market. It’s great that the traineeships have proven to be a success.”


From foreman to project manager.
Steve enthuses, “I met a specialist a number of years ago who had been literally spoon-fed the industry since childhood. His grandfather and father had both been welders and he naturally followed suit. He had been working as a foreman for many years, was highly motivated and understood all too well that he had way more potential in him than a position as foreman.

“We had several discussions about his career, with a view to answering key questions such as: In which direction do you want to go? Where do you see yourself in two years’ time? And in four? When we had made a thorough assessment, it was decided he should do the STAR Industry Planner traineeship, which combines theory and on-the-job, practical experience.

“The traineeship proved to be the perfect launch of a ‘new’ career. We continued to hone his skills through more specialist training and courses and he soon became a planner and is now even assistant project manager.

“It’s just one of the many Star Academy success stories, and the perfect example of how we aim to help all the specialists who work for us,” Steve concludes. “We’re here to help people identify and seize new opportunities. Regardless of age or ambition: keep moving, dare to grow… it really works and it’s really rewarding.”