It’s a dilemma that many firms face: how do you keep your engineering staff up to date with the non-technical skills needed in today’s fast-changing business environment?
Do you go to the time and trouble of trying to set up and manage a professional development unit? Or do you tap into specialised programs such as Engineering Education Australia’s (EEA) Graduate Program?
Craig Savage says EEA’s Graduate Program is a solution that ticked the boxes for United Energy.
“It was an easy fit for us. It was easy going from nothing to having quite a substantial program without us having to put in a lot of effort,” he says.
“So it was an easy solution to adopt the EEA Graduate Program.”
Savage is the General Manager of Asset Management at United Energy which distributes electricity to more than 640,000 customers across east and south-east Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.
It’s a big job. United Energy manages a network involving 209,000 poles, 13,000 kilometres of wires, and 78 sub-stations.
Savage says the company has some 335 staff, as well as some 2,000 other people who work with United Energy.
He says United Energy currently has five engineers enrolled in the EA Graduate Program which is specifically designed for recently graduated engineers working within an engineering organisation.
It provides them with the non-technical skills – such as communication and business skills – that complement the engineering expertise acquired at university.
“The training it offers is really quite relevant to us,” Savage says. “It’s delivered in a timely way, it’s pretty cost effective and it’s based on the skills that engineers traditionally don’t have.
“It really hit the mark in more than one way, it was easy and met all our requirements really.”
How do you feel the Engineering Graduate Program benefitted United Energy as a company?
“It’s certainly helped us with recruiting, when we go recruiting graduates each year, we can now say there is a development path for them which I think helps to engage with people,” Savage says.
“On top of that, we aspire to be the ‘Intelligent Utility’ which is the motto of this business, and we see development of our staff as one of the paths to achieving this.”
What importance do you feel non-technical workplace skills play in becoming a well-rounded engineer?
“If we’re looking to have the best technical solution in the world to a problem or plan, it can be useless knowing that, if you can’t get others to come onboard or you can’t substantiate it or justify it.
“It’s quite important not just getting the technical side of things straight, but also being able to explain things in finance speak or accounting terms so that people from other disciplines can get onboard and the technical message can be communicated better. This helps the business.”
Why do you feel Engineering Graduate Program is a cost-effective way of developing your graduates?
“With the Graduate Program, our young engineers dedicate five days each year, so it consolidates their training over a short time. Whereas if you had to do the training yourself, you’d have to try to find courses and it would take you four or five years to get to that stage.”
Would you recommend EEA’s Engineering Graduate Program for future graduates and their organisations?
“Yes, I definitely would.”
Engineering Education Australia provides graduates with the non-technical skills (in areas such as communication and business) that will complement the technical proficiency obtained at university. Find out more here.