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Laing O'Rourke

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Tom Shaw

As with anything, a strong passion for what you are doing is essential – I have a passion for construction and can see myself enjoying working in this industry for the next 20+ years.

What's your job about?

I work for Laing O’Rourke, a large international civil engineering company; Laing O’Rourke’s projects are predominantly focused on Infrastructure, Buildings and the Resource Industry. We also pride ourselves in leading the way in Engineering Excellence and innovation in the construction industry.

Over the last two years on the Laing O’Rourke’s Graduate programme I have been fortunate to have worked on three large projects and in one operations office:

  • The Wheatstone LNG Project (Onslow, WA) – where Laing O'Rourke had the major concrete structures contract,
  • Northlink Stage 2 Project (Perth, WA) – a joint venture between BGC and Laing O’Rourke are constructing 20km of highway and 14 road bridges,
  • The Design Phase of the Larrakeyah Barracks Redevelopment and Facilities Support to Naval Operations (Perth & Darwin, WA/NT) – where Laing O’Rourke are working alongside the Australian Defence Force to design and cost manage an infrastructure to upgrade to the Darwin Barracks and Naval Base and,
  • In the office for Hunter Valley Rail Operations (Newcastle, NSW) – operations and track maintenance for heavy rail in NSW.

The graduate programme has provided me with a variation of roles and responsibilities, through these experiences, on the projects mentioned above, I have affirmed my desire to work in the construction industry as a civil engineer.

I have enjoyed working in the offices in both Perth and Newcastle. I completed 6 months of estimating, costing and planning projects in NSW, as well as working with consultants together with the Royal Australian Navy to achieve increased capability in design in Perth and Darwin. Working in the office has also exposed me to the corporate commercial roles that are necessary for Laing O'Rourke to keep delivering large projects in Australia.

I have also enjoyed working out in the field as a Site engineer – from night shift in the middle of Kings Cross, to managing subcontractors for the construction of 2km of Noise Walls on the project I am on presently.

To be specific, in my current role as a site engineer on the Northlink Stage 2 project, my day can be summarised by the following: - Prestart on site at 0630AM, including group stretching and then 10 hours of hectic problem solving. As a site engineer, my day to day role is to ensure the subcontractor (construction crew) has the materials, resources and capability to safely construct the facility to the highest of quality, on time and on budget.

What's your background?

I was born in the UK, but I have grown up in Perth as a West Australian. I have been lucky to travel when I was young, living 2 years in Karratha and another 2 years in Houston, Texas.

I’ve always had a keen interest in engineering, from building stadiums and racetracks in the sand as a child, to helping build the family house during my time at university, to constructing a 12ft skate bowl in Busselton and now at Laing O’Rourke, being part of a Company constructing mega projects all over the world.

I spent most of my university breaks working - my first engineering experience was as a cadet engineer for John Holland in Darwin, before joining CBP on the same project over the next summer break. When I left university in 2015, I worked as a TA/Engineer building skate parks in Busselton and Brisbane.

Mid-way through 2015 I attended a Curtin Careers day and met an engineer representing Laing O'Rourke. We both shared a similar experience working in Darwin and I was able to demonstrate my experience and passion for the construction industry during our conversation.

Further to this meeting, I pursued a position on the LOR graduate engineering programme and I was very fortunate to be offered a position at Laing O'Rourke at the start of 2016.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely, the construction work place is incredibly diverse, most construction workers are very mobile and you will meet men and women from all over the world. A diverse and inclusive workplace culture is highly sort after by Laing O’Rourke. Not only does it add to the work place environment, but like many construction companies, LOR recognizes that this enables us to leverage different skill sets, knowledge, and perspectives; leading to better results.

Anyone from any background can work in construction; if you are hardworking and ready for a challenge you will thoroughly enjoy the construction industry - a sense of humour helps too!

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love working on site on large demanding projects and being technically challenged. Laing O’Rourke has given me the opportunity to work in five States/Territories over the last two years. The experienced leaders, mentors and fellow graduates in the organisation are great people. Similar to myself, most colleagues are down to earth, easy going and have a great sense of humour.

So far, my most memorable experiences have been working with Japanese Engineers on a 1000M3 24hr continuous concrete pour in Darwin, and working with top Royal Australian Navy experts in mooring simulations for design analysis of a new Naval wharf in Darwin.

What are the limitations of your job?

We work long hours and some weekends, but I find it enjoyable. Most colleagues are knowledgeable, easy to communicate with and can share a joke or two so it becomes a joy to work with. There are however, the hard days when the work is challenging and stressful. We have to meet targets and deadlines, whilst ensuring everybody is safe and the quality of work remains to the highest standard.

As a site engineer you will have to be prepared to work long hours, travel and potentially move when transferring from one project to the next. As with anything, a strong passion for what you are doing is essential – I have a passion for construction and can see myself enjoying working in this industry for the next 20+ years.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Network – Go to the network evenings & Tav quiz nights, join an engineering club, and get involved – It will pay dividends. Likewise, start going to technical seminars, they may be dry but the knowledge you learn - and passion you show to potential employers - could help you stand out from the field.
  • Work experience – Any experience is good experience, it helps to put the sometimes long tedious academic university units into context. Your degree only goes so far, to excel in construction, an understanding of the industry, the structure of the workforce, and your personal experience are as important as your university studies, if not more so.
  • Finally, you will be working 5-6 day weeks soon, go enjoy university life while it lasts!