Boosting My Study with Practical Experience

Hi people, my name is Alan and I am currently completing my Bachelor of Engineering/Diploma of Professional Practice (Co-op). What follows is a bit of a spiel about my personal experience of the program and why it was so good.

Why this program?

I came straight out of high school and went to uni. Initially, I was enrolled in the regular Bachelor of Engineering program at CQUni. After a bit of networking experience and talking to professionals I learned that what companies really want is employees with experience. I was lucky enough to get a vacation placement after my first year of uni with Rio Tinto. This experience was essential for me because besides Red Rooster I was fresh into the workforce. This placement taught me how tough actual work is. I thought to myself “I need to get more experience before I finish Uni.” So starting from my second year that I decided to make the change into the Co-op program.


My Placements

I have completed two placements while at uni. My first was with BMA at Saraji Mine working in the Engineering Department under small projects. This role didn’t have me doing much electrical engineering work but was focused on project management and coordination onsite. I was involved in a number of projects while on this placement including a major plant shutdown over three weeks which ran 24/7. By the end my project management skill base was off the charts for a student and this experience really helped me later on.

My second placement was with Ampcontrol based in Mackay. I worked in the Engineering Department designing and managing a plethora of projects. As this was my second placement and I had more experience I was able to jump right in. Within weeks I was designing and managing the builds of gear which a few months back I little idea of how they went together. This was a much more technical role and the learning curve was massive but so worth it. My major projects included:

  • 3 x 11KV Section Isolators
  • 2 x Longwall booster pump systems
  • Overhauling an old sub to handle powering dam pumps underground

And a bunch of smaller electrical stuff which is too technical to be interesting enough to mention here.

I also was able to build up some sweet pre arthritis from hundreds of hours churning out designs on CAD. Overall, I loved it and the experience has set me up as best as possible to work as a graduate and shoulder the responsibilities this brings.

Typical day at work

Wake, work, work, lunch, work, beers, bed. Just the way nature intended.


Firstly if you are doing a Bachelor of Engineering and not in the Co-op program change over because the experience and contacts you get are so useful and more valuable than just university based knowledge. I cannot emphasise that enough.

If you are about to go on placement for the first time;

  • Be ready to feel useless at first, but tough it out until you absorb enough to be useful. Then you are set.
  • You have to ask questions if you want to learn quickly. Don’t be afraid to stop someone talking to have them expand on an acronym otherwise nothing will make sense.
  • Stay on top of your journals and uni work because if you let it pile up until the end you will be catching the train to struggle town to balance your life.

More information on the Bachelor of Engineering/Diploma of Professional Practice can be seen on the CQUniversity website.

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