An Engineers Australia pilot program aimed at getting international engineering students into work is already seeing success, with at least one student finding a job.
The program, International University Students: Engineering Your Future, is designed to put engineering students in NT in touch with local engineering firms. The students are then offered a Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunity – “Engineer for a Day”. Students spend 4–5 hours taking part in the day-to-day work of a professional engineer, often involving office work and on-site visits.
A second phase of the program involves students participating in a networking workshop to create an understanding of why networking with industry is imperative for future career goals. A networking event with engineering industry representatives is held immediately after the workshop, so the students can put what they’ve learned into practice.
Samantha Zdjelar, General Manager Student and Graduate Membership at Engineers Australia, says that the students get to connect the theory they are learning at university with the practical reality of professional engineering.
Enthusiasm for the pilot in NT is high, with 17 companies taking part. On top of that, 100% of participating companies have said they will take a student again if the pilot is successful.
“The companies that have taken part have been amazing,” says Zdjelar. “Some of them have even been providing lifts for students who don’t have their own transport.”
Student success story
One student participant is Rijan Bhuju StudIEAust, who is in the final year of his Master of Engineering at Charles Darwin University.
“It can be hard to find a job out here in Australia,” he says.
“Getting a job can be all about your network, so I decided to engage with the opportunities presented by the Engineers Australia networking events. That’s where I heard about this program,” he adds.
Bhuju was placed with Darwin firm ADG Engineers, a multi-disciplinary practice offering engineering consultancy services across structural, construction services, civil and infrastructure and digital engineering.
“During my Engineer for a Day session, I spent half the time in the ADG offices, working on a drafting task and getting to know what it’s like working in an Australian engineering company,” says Bhuju.
“The other half of the time was on a site inspection. I got both the office experience and the site experience, so it was a really fruitful day.”
While on his placement, Bhuju worked closely with ADG engineer Shreya Maharjan GradIEAust.
“I was able to show Rijan that working as an engineer is so much more than what he has learned in university,” she says. “I tried to show him even the smallest things that may seem easy and unimportant but will matter in his career.”
“This is a great platform that helps students come out of their comfort zone,” she continues. “Even though it’s only a few hours, they can learn and prepare themselves for their dream career.”
“At ADG, we know our people are our most valuable asset,” says Dalton Glasby, Practice Director at ADG Darwin. “We really saw this program as another opportunity to broaden our ability to give back to the engineering profession and engage with emerging engineers.”
Glasby says that graduate engineers leave university with the technical knowledge they need, but that sometimes they need support in other areas.
“We’ve come to find that early career engineers value additional support with soft skills development, networking, and social support post university,” he says.
Taking the next step
On completion of his “Engineer for a Day” Bhuju reached out to see if there were more opportunities for him at the company.
“I had met Dalton at one of the networking events, so after the program I gave him a call,” Bhuju explains.
“I asked him if there were any positions available, he sent me a link to apply, and here I am!”
Glasby says that Bhuju will be working as an undergraduate engineer in the civil/infrastructure team, assisting with a range of tasks including reporting, design, drafting and site works.
“Finding a good job is so much easier with a good network,” says Bhuju. “I would encourage every student to go to as many events as you can, and just engage with people.
“Meet as many people as you can, expand your network, and never lose hope.”
Promoting the value international engineering students can bring
With the engineering profession facing a growing skills gap, ensuring that international students have the best opportunity to find work in Australia is vital.
“It’s clear Australia does not have enough local engineering support to service our growing industry,” says Glasby.
“At ADG, we see it as critical to engage with our international counterparts and provide early career opportunities to ensure the ongoing security and knowledge transfer of the engineering profession.
“We are proud to lead strong, best-practice solutions that create a positive legacy for the future and support the next generation of engineers.”
The International University Students: Engineering Your Future program will create many more opportunities for international students, says Zdjelar.
“We want to show the value international students can bring to a business, and show how they can help alleviate the skill shortage for industry,” she adds.
International University Students – Engineering your Future is sponsored by Study NT through the International Student Wellbeing Grants Program.