Soling playing for PNG vs Botswana 2010 Commonwealth Games
Soling Tiba has spent two-thirds of his working life at PNG Forest Products, having started with the company at 20 years of age. Soling had been working with the Forestry Department for two years when he was accepted into the Apprenticeship Program in 1980.
“PNGFP is a great place to be apprenticed. The training in electrical encompasses every aspect of the field, across all situations”, proclaims Soling enthusiastically. “I’ve worked through the ranks from Shift Electrician in the Plymill and Sawmill, Electrical Workshop, Motor Rewind, Special Projects, High Voltage Lines, Radio Communications and the list goes on. There are really good opportunities for career growth here and you also get to live and work in a great town.”
When he first settled in Bulolo, Soling was amazed at how self-sufficient the town was, with PNGFP operating retail and wholesale outlets, a cattle farm, community swimming pool (currently under restoration), a country club and a bowling club, which has become a significant part of Soling’s life.
President of the Bulolo Bowling Club since 2010, Soling has built a solid management team to help run the club. Together they have raised the profile and standard of the club and their players to the point where many of them have represented PNG in international competition. In fact, Soling represented PNG at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India while his wife, Monding, has represented in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast as well as Canada and Scotland. Soling and Monding, married in 1983 and raised their family in Bulolo. Their son-in-law is now a supervisor in the sawmill.
Throughout this time Soling was advancing his career through hard work, commitment and ongoing training both locally and in Australia. Since 1980 his career has progressed from Electrical Tradesman, to Leading Hand, to Electrical Workshop Foreman and in 1992 he was promoted to the position of Electrical Superintendent, a position he has held for the last 27 years. Managing 37 staff across multiple areas, Soling reports directly to the Electrical Engineer, Matthew Mesmin who has worked with Soling for the past 6 years.
“Soling’s career at PNGFP is a testament to not only our Apprenticeship Program, but to the ongoing training and support that the company provides,” says Mesmin. “He is a great asset to my department, the company and in fact, the whole town. When water race repairs are required at one of the company owned Hydro Electric plants, Soling is the go-to-guy who organises everything while also coordinating with the local community. I will certainly be sorry to see him leave when he retires, as will the members and management of the Bulolo Bowling Club that he has helped to make such a success”.
Soling instructing one of his 37 staff
Barry in discussion with PNGFP’s HR Manager, Robert Ngatama
Late in 1981 a young man from Tufi named Barry Bejigi completed a one-year Technical Training Course in Electrical at Pom Tech. Just 19 years of age, Barry had his whole life ahead of him, but with no clear direction on where he was going. That was until he responded to an ad for a Recruitment Drive by PNG Forest Products for their 1982 Apprenticeship Program. Once accepted, Barry was transferred to Bulolo as an Apprentice Electrical Fitter, totally unaware of the long and diverse career path that lay ahead of him.
Successfully graduating from the 4-year Program, Barry continued with PNGP as a Tradesman Electrician for a further 17 years. Over this period Barry had been building more than a career, he was also busily building a life. Bulolo had become Barry’s home-away-from-home. He had found it easy to assimilate into this relaxed, friendly community; participating in local sports, community events and church activities. Barry has even earned himself quite a reputation in the town as the king of pig cooking, which he has been called upon to do at countless community events.
With over 1,200 staff the company houses a large number of its employees and their families, providing all the necessary services including power, water, road maintenance, security, garbage collection and grass cutting. Even electricity is supplied to Bulolo by PNGFP Hydro; but that wasn’t the only electricity Barry found in Bulolo.
Barry met and married his wife Kevi in Bulolo in 1988 and they set about building a family with their first son Luke, born in 1992, closely followed by Alan in 1995. In following years Kevi worked for the PNGFP No.1 Stoa Kai Bar and Luke trained with the company’s IT department.
In 2004 Barry was offered a change in career direction by transferring to PNGFP’s Administration/HR Department. Barry jumped at the chance and quickly stepped up as a Training Officer, primarily focusing on the Apprenticeship Program…. the same program that had accepted Barry 22 years earlier. After extensive on-the-job training followed by a PAA course in Brisbane, Barry was promoted to the position of HR Officer in 2007.
“PNGFP provides more opportunity for apprentices” says Barry. “Here you will learn and grow not just within the organisation, but within this wonderful Bulolo Community. And I truly believe that your development here gives you a broader, wider knowledge across a more diverse range of skills than you will get from any other organisation”.
After 37 years of continuous service with PNGFP, Barry is eligible to retire but has no plans to do so at this stage. After all, if Barry left and went back home to Oro Province with his wife, who would take his place as the Pig Cooking King of Bulolo?
Barry working his pig cooking magic
Tiki Igah and Family
Tiki’s connection to the company stretches back over 60 years when his uncle, Kimbu Alungbam, started employment with Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited in 1950. Kimbu worked as a crewmember on the MV Mubo, a ship transporting Sepiks to Bulolo to work in the Pine Plantations, until he left to work at the Plymill in 1960.
Tiki moved to Bulolo to live with his uncle in 1967, to attend the Hompiri Primary School at the age of 12. He completed his education in 1979 and returned to Bulolo to work in the company with his Uncle Kimbu.
Kimbu retired in 1983 after 23 years with the company. Tiki left to attend UNITECH and after graduating, Tiki rejoined PNGFP in 1997 and now holds the position of Community Affairs Manager. Tiki has worked for the company for over 33 years, the last 22 years continuously.
However, the legacy of Kimbu Alungbam doesn’t end there. Tiki’s wife, Joan Igah was with the company for 38 years, retiring as the PA to the General Manager in 2018; their son (and Kimbu’s grandson), Jack Igah joined PNGFP in 2014 and is PNGFP’s Senior Purchasing Office; and their daughter Sue, (Kimbu’s granddaughter), is now working with PNGFP as an IT technician.
Patrick’s father, machine operator Peter Atau, worked for the company for an impressive 50 years, before retiring in the year 2000. Like so many others, Patrick followed in his father’s footsteps in 1980, joining the company as a mechanic in PNGFP’s Lae Division. Patrick left in 1985 to explore other opportunities but returned to the company in 1989 and is still with PNGFP today, working as a Tradesman Mechanic, with over 30 years of service under his belt.
Naku Bayu followed his uncle into the company in 1974 and is still with us today, some 45 years on, working in the Plymill QA Division. His uncle, Sua Tara, started as a carpenter with Bulolo Gold Dredging Ltd, retiring in 1998 after 48 years of service to the company.
Naku’s son and daughter have also worked for PNGFP.
Lawrence Tupui’s roots in the company are strong indeed, with his great grandfather, Yabo Dangi having started with Bulolo Gold Dredging way back in 1942, as their Supervisor Storeman at the compound store.
Yabo’s son and Lawrence’s father, Tupui Saun, joined in 1954 and worked as a Farm Hand, retiring in 1985 after 31 years.
Lawrence started with us an apprentice boilermaker in 1977, has worked in our machine-shop for many years and is now running our rock-crushing plant . 42 years with the company and is still going strong.