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UniSA Grants Program: Supporting The Future Of Construction

By Jon Anderson

During my time at University, work placement was not included as a course component, so it wasn’t until I entered the workforce that I was able to gain practical site experience. For today’s students, the UniSA Grants Program provides a hands-on opportunity to work with Sarah Constructions and gain practical experience, working in construction as a unit of their studies. 

Over the 12 week program, we involve students on a number of different commercial construction projects, providing exposure to multiple departments and experiences; giving them a head-start in their career by getting them out of the classroom and into real-life job scenarios. For the students that have potential and are a good cultural fit, the grants program can extend into longer term career progression for them, through transition into our Graduate program. A pathway that we are very proud to offer at Sarah, to help foster and develop the next generation of construction professionals.

Applying For The UniSA Grants Program

When you apply for a job later in life, it’s common that you have a network of people who know you and you’re work history. Through previous work experience, you have developed referees and people who can provide a more complete overview of who you are and what you can offer. Where as students are brand new to the industry and don’t have that network, so our collaboration with UniSA helps make sure we get a complete picture of who they are, when they’re applying for the grant positions.

We achieve this additional insight that might traditionally come from an applicants referees, by including a UniSA representative on our interview panel. The UniSA faculty staff knows the student candidates, can act as their referee and provide a greater depth of knowledge on the students potential. This collaboration provides beneficial insight, as often interviews don’t give us a complete understanding of a person. Having someone who can vouch for them and tell us what they’re like away from the interview environment, help us make informed choices, and we’ve made strong selections as a result.

Benefits Of Participating In The UniSA Grants Program

All students eligible for the grant have to complete 12 weeks of work experience as part of their degree. One of the real benefits of our program is that we support our students by making sure they’re paid for the time they spend with us. This also demonstrates to the students that we value their time and input. They’re not just someone doing work experience – we are genuinely invested in their contribution and we value the opportunity to work with them, as much as they do us.

While they’re at Sarah, we make sure participating students get a broad range of experience. They’ll be guided through the tender process, learn first-hand from our expert design team, and spend time on a variety of different sites, working on a range of different projects. Building is a very tangible process, and we like to deliver solid practical experience that will provide genuine benefits to the students in their final year of study. I know from first-hand experience that there’s only so much you can learn through study. Hands-on experience makes for a much stronger graduate, which not only benefits the individuals, but also the industry as a whole.

Paul Schultz was one of our successful grant recipients in 2018, and who is still with Sarah, participating in our Graduate Program. A great piece of feedback I had from him was around the assignment of his mentor, Evan Kellaris, with whom he ‘felt like he won the jackpot’. After his 12-weeks with us he said he had a much better understanding of the industry and because of that, he was able to better grasp the principles he is studying at university.

“Even though the Senior Managers at Sarah are incredibly busy, they always take the time to answer my questions and give me the help I need. Within industry, sub contractors for example, love working for Sarah and I think this comes down to the values and Sarah culture. Everyone helps everyone, it is absolutely a collaborative team environment. At Sarah it’s about building positive relationships and this approach trickles down from the very top. The experience has been amazing and I would 100% recommend it.” Paul Schultz

Career Progression After UniSA Grants Program

When we bring someone onboard with this program, we’re not just thinking about the next 12-weeks. We’re looking to invest in someone and to build a long-term relationship. So, if a student shows the right attitude, there’s a real opportunity for longer term career progression, which benefits everyone involved. It’s great for the student because they have a job lined up before they’ve even finished their degree, and we see ourselves getting the best the market has to offer.

Since we started the program, we’ve seen most of our students take those extra steps. More often than not the paid grant program has turned into a cadetship, which has then turned into a full-time position with us in our graduate program

I think the success of the UniSA grants program really shows how much we can all benefit by investing our time and energy into the next generation. The students, and therefore our industry as a whole, will all be that much stronger, for the time and commitment we put into our students of today.

Information on eligibility for the program and application requirements can be found on UniSA’s scholarship page for the Division of Information Technology, Engineering, and the Environment.

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