Reflections from recipients of the NSC’s National Naval Shipbuilding Scholarship Pilot Program – Naval Shipbuilding College

Reflections from recipients of the NSC’s National Naval Shipbuilding Scholarship Pilot Program

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Callum Stephens and Maria Vargas Duque are recipients of the inaugural National Naval Shipbuilding Scholarship Pilot Program. Both in their final years at University, Callum is studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at RMIT and Maria is studying Mechatronics at QUT.


The scholarship is now in its second year, and Callum and Maria have just finished their 12-week work placements. They were recently invited to share their experience at a welcome webinar for the second cohort of scholarship recipients.


Why did you apply for the National Naval Shipbuilding Scholarship Pilot Program?


Callum: I was interested in some of the ship’s technology applications related to radar systems and embedded systems. This included the Nulka Active Missile Decoy, which BAE Systems Australia is currently working on. I was also interested in the work placement that would provide me with valuable experience before graduation and an opportunity to apply my understanding of engineering within a real-world environment. I am also interested in the naval shipbuilding industry which has a multitude of opportunities.


Maria: One of the main reasons why I applied to the scholarship is because I saw it as a way of getting unique work experience that I wouldn’t get in jobs outside of Defence. Another aspect about the scholarship that intrigued me is being able to challenge myself by applying the engineering skills I learnt at University directly to Defence-related technologies.

In a continent that’s purely surrounded by water, protecting the maritime borders is of utmost importance. One of the things I really like about the Naval Shipbuilding industry is the focus on the Future Sustainment Plan. It’s not just building the ships as a current solution, but also the long-term sustainability of the projects.


Who was your work placement with?


Callum: I was assigned to BAE Systems Australia within the Sustainment Team, where we worked on systems engineering tasks.


Maria: I did my internship at Laser Central, which is a family-owned metal, laser-cutting company in Darra, Queensland.


What did you learn on the job?


Callum: Although I was not specifically working on electrical electronic engineering, I still learnt valuable fundamentals which relate to the project engineering lifecycle of the company. The work we completed was interesting, as I had no initial understanding of the framework. Through collaborating with experienced engineers, I gained valuable knowledge which will echo throughout my final year and my future as an Engineer.


Maria: My internship project involved looking into the processes involved in production. I was tasked with investigating where possible bottlenecks formed and provide solutions that could mitigate these. Throughout the experience I found my communication skills improved a lot. Since I wasn’t a part of a specific team working on this project, I had to ensure I communicated effectively with a wide range of people. I found myself communicating with everyone, ranging from the laser-machine operators to managers and even the CEO.


Can you take us through a day in the life of your work placement?


Callum: In my day to day I spent the first 30 minutes organising emails, sorting out meetings etc. As the project I was involved in was related to many disciplines, I would find myself talking to many different discipline heads. It was very involved. After this I would then complete my tasks in preparation for the team meeting later in the day.


Maria: In my day to day I was involved in many of Laser Central’s processes. I would begin my day by looking through the orders that were coming through. I would then go out to the factory and converse with the laser workers regarding data and about any pressing issues they may have. Afterwards, I would go back and analyse the data, trying to make further sense of it. From there I would try and come up with possible reasons why this kept happening and provide some possible solutions.


What was the most memorable thing you got to do during your work placement?


Callum: The most memorable would be a presentation I had to do in front of 103 employees, I was very nervous! I had to present on the work that I had completed over the past 12 weeks. It was a great experience. I used to be very hesitant when it came to public speaking, as well as communicating with a team of people I don’t know, especially when they are all experienced engineers. Through placement I have become more comfortable doing this.


Overall, I had a great time, and the whole 12 weeks was memorable.


Maria: For me, I think it was the one on one time I had with my supervisor. These busy engineers are out doing a lot of stuff, despite this they were still able to provide me with a lot of advice that I will carry with me throughout my whole career. They told me a lot about processes, better ways of thinking and how to communicate with people. That advice is invaluable and a highlight from my internship.


What does the scholarship mean to you?


Callum: Getting the scholarship has provided me with a lot of opportunities. Not only was I able to gain valuable experience on Defence related projects through the 12-week work placement, but I was also kept on for a casual position at BAE Systems while I study. On top of this, I was also accepted into the Graduate Program by BAE Systems Australia for 2022.

Maria: Being one of the few handpicked students to get this scholarship is an honor. Completing the internship program has built up my confidence as an individual and as a professional engineer. I got to prove to myself that I already have the skills that are required in the workforce which was great. The scholarship has also given me more financial freedom to also be able to work less during the semester and dive deeper into my studies.


What words of advice do you have for future scholarship recipients?


Callum: My advice for you is to accept every invite for the Defence related information webinars and to be as involved as possible within the company you’re placed at. Make sure to try your best at the 12-week work placement even if the work you’re completing is unfamiliar to you. If they have a place for you after the placement and you’ve done the hard work throughout placement then they might even keep you on.


Maria: You get the opportunity to make valuable connections with many inspiring engineers that have been in the field for many, many years. My advice to the next cohort, is to get really involved, attend the presentations, even if it’s not directly related to what you might be doing. Some of the stuff is very cool and you may learn something new!


If you are interested in finding out how you can be part of this exciting industry, join the NSC’s national Workforce Register, so we can connect your with one of our Candidate Engagement Consultants for your confidential career conversation.

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