Building my engineering experience as an undergrad

Laura 2Hi! I am a final year electrical engineering student in the Bachelor of Engineering/Diploma of Professional Practice (Co-Op) program. I enrolled in this course straight out of high school and was enticed by the challenges and career opportunities that the engineering field has to offer. I chose CQUniversity due to the practical components of the program; the idea of graduating with at least a year’s worth of experience was intriguing.

Industry Placement Experience

My first placement was with BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) under the Infrastructure and Asset Management Major Shutdowns team for seven months. During which, I was involved in two dragline shutdowns at Peak Downs Mine and Goonyella Riverside Mine. Shutdowns generally involve large scale electrical/structural overhauls and refurbishments. The sheer size of a dragline was both impressive and daunting on my first day. My responsibilities revolved around parts procurement, contractor management and the opportunity to work with industry experts.

Still with BMA, I then conducted vacation work at Hay Point Coal Terminal within the Engineering team for 12 weeks. This role involved developing scope documents, business cases, budgets and schedules for the five year plan. This placement involved two weeks field experience with the on-site electricians, giving me an insight into the conditions that field operatives are subject to. This was particularly exciting with the occasional turtle sighting off-shore. For my second placement, I have been introduced to the power industry, working for Ergon Energy’s Control Systems team based in Toowoomba. My responsibilities revolve around Ergon Energy’s Load Management application. This has provided an opportunity to further progress and develop my skills.  I have a genuinely strong interest in the power industry; this placement has demonstrated the diverse range of roles and business functions involved in managing the electricity network.

Benefit of Industry Placement

These industry placements offer countless development opportunities. You are given the chance to learn from industry experts and gain exposure to a variety of engineering fields prior to graduation. Placement increases your technical knowledge as well as your communication and networking skills; two very important skills to have in the world of engineering. There is so much you can gain from undergraduate experience. For example, I secured a scholarship with BMA at the completion of my first placement and have recently obtained an industry thesis topic through Ergon Energy.

Advice for Industry Placement

One piece of advice, treat these industry placements as an extended job application; you’ve got the opportunity, make the most of it and grasp every experience possible to expand your knowledge base and (hopefully) lay the foundations for a successful career.

Also, LADIES, I am an ambassador for the Dream Big Project. The Dream Big Project is an initiative that encourages young females to pursue a career in engineering. Remove the predisposition that engineering is a male dominated industry. My placement opportunities have disproven this fact. There are increasing numbers of females ranging from graduate to managerial roles in industry (both mining and power). If you are a young lady about to disembark on your first placement, particularly with a mining company, do not let the male stigma impact your decision. I guarantee you will learn a lot from this experience.

Lauren Keleher, Bachelor of Engineering/Diploma of Professional Practice (Co-Op)

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