Collaboration Trains Next Generation of Engineers

A collaboration between the University of NSW, construction giant John Holland, and Canberra Metro is giving engineering undergraduates valuable work experience.

Under the arrangement, students from UNSW’s Australian Defence Force Academy campus are spending part of each week working with Hollands on the Canberra Metro project.

All three are undertaking engineering degrees through UNSW which has 3200 students enrolled at its ADFA campus.  While most of those are military cadets undergoing officer training the university also enrols students from civilian life.

UNSW’s civil engineering degree is part of its plan to expand its presence in the nation’s capital. Only a month ago the university announced it was in talks with the ACT Government about plans to develop a new campus at Reid in the inner city.  Those plans envisage development of an ‘innovation precinct’ at the proposed Reid campus that could cater for as many as 10,000 students and which would work closely with industry.

UNSW is the only one of the four universities in Canberra that offers a degree course in civil engineering.  That suits 20-year-old Joshua Daniel well.  He said he ‘jumped at the opportunity’ when a careers advisor told him UNSW was launching its civil engineering course at ADFA.

“I enjoyed maths and science as a secondary student and civil engineering seemed like a sensible way to study for me,” he said. ‘ADFA is a great way to study locally. Small class sizes are one of the best things and it’s very easy to ask questions. There is really personal experience from lecturers.”

The opportunity to combine study with work experience at Canberra Metro came earlier in the year.

“Studying civil engineering, the opportunity to work on one of the biggest infrastructure projects that Canberra has seen was really exciting,” Josh said, “I signed up straight away when I was told about it”.

Josh’s work at Canberra Metro has given him interesting involvement in project management, an area he particularly enjoys. “It’s really good to be working with top engineers on an important project and to see what type of role I could have as a qualified engineer,” he said. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity John Holland and Canberra Metro has given me.”

For Braydon Clarke, another 20-year-old who took to maths and science as a secondary student, news of the UNSW engineering offering came at just the right time.

“It was about November of Year 12 when I found out UNSW was going to offer engineering courses here in Canberra,” he said. “Until then you couldn’t do civil, electrical, mechanical and aeronautical engineering in Canberra. I jumped at it straight away.

“At ADFA the student-staff ratio is one of the best in the country. Access to lecturers is easy.”

But he was a little hesitant when the opportunity to take up work experience at Canberra Metro came about. “Canberra Metro is a civil project, not an aeronautical one, so I was a bit concerned about whether it was a good fit.  But I thought it’s still engineering work experience and it’s an opportunity you wouldn’t get anyway else so I thought why not go for it. Working on the light rail project is a different experience – I’ve never had any construction experience so it’s been good to have exposure to different environments.  It’s been good to be involved in something that is so big in this community.  I’m keen to see it through,” he said.

For Troy Miles the student experience at UNSW is not his first. The 25-year-old was first at ADFA as an Officer Cadet but left before he was commissioned. Unfortunately when he rejoined the Army as an Artilleryman he was seriously injured and medically discharged.  But every cloud has a silver lining: during his recovery he was asked what he would like to do and he decided to go back to ADFA as a civilian student.

“Studying at ADFA is different to other unis,” he said, “The staff are fantastic.  They have the time to dedicate to helping you understand what you’re learning a bit more. I was actually still in the Army when this opportunity came up for work experience at Canberra Metro, and I was lucky enough to start pretty much the day after my discharge.

“The best part of the work here is being able to interact with those engineers who have the experience that you just can’t get at a university.  My time here is important for me – it will help me understand what types of work I can do with my injured knee and where I might be able to work in the future.”


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