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Unitec careers page leads to invaluable on-the-job learning opportunity

  • Alena-Waqainaete-Unitec-slide

“I’ve got access to the projects and people I can learn from, and that’s invaluable.”

11 May 2023

It’s no surprise that Fijian-born Alena Waqainabete followed her family into the construction industry, but she was keen to put her own mark on it.

Alena completed a Bachelor of Construction (BCons) programme last semester, majoring in Construction Economics & Property Development – specialisations she saw as key in carving out her own niche within the industry. Her brother had studied at Unitec previously, and once he’d given her the thumbs-up, Alena moved to New Zealand to start her construction programme after completing high school in Suva.

At the start of last year, she started to apply for graduate roles, using her Unitec contacts and searching various job seeker websites. An email from Elizabeth Morris in Unitec’s Careers team alerted her to the graduate programme which was featured on Unitec’s careers page.

“Once I clicked on the link in Elizabeth’s email, I was directed straight to the careers page,” says Alena. “I simply clicked on ‘graduate job’ and then selected ‘property and build environment’ as that was the area I was interested in finding out more about. I’d been on the lookout for graduate positions for a while, and had searched a number of sites, but found that the Unitec site was easier to navigate and had the best information. It was hassle-free and I got a list of graduate roles directly related to what I was looking for.”

One of those roles was assistant cost manager at Turner & Townsend, a global consultancy business serving clients in the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors. Alena applied for the role, and was impressed that Turner & Townsend said that they were looking for someone who wanted to gain experience, and was keen to learn. After a detailed interview process, she started with the Auckland-based firm in August last year.

A learning opportunity

“I came into the role actively wanting to learn,” she says. “I really enjoyed how genuine they were, and easy they were to talk to.”

She was allocated to the Infrastructure team and introduced to Quantity Surveying – a skill which she found challenging to start with, but now is passionate about.

“Quantity surveying is one of the things that drives construction projects – through it, you’re able to get to know the workings of a project,” she says. “It’s where I want to stay at the moment. It gives me avenues to build my experience, including work on socially impactful projects which is an area I’m really interested in.”

“I also really value being part of the conversation,” she says. “It’s a great way to learn, and I’m getting first-hand experience I couldn’t get anywhere else. Turner & Townsend gives me access to both the projects and the people that I can learn from and with.”

The team has involved her in strategic procurement assessments and payment claim reviews.

“This has helped maximise my exposure to industry challenges while giving me a great baseline for one of the research papers I have in my final semester,” she says. “Whether it’s project-related issues or just general conversations with the team, there’s always so much to learn.”

Alena has some advice for prospective job seekers, saying the detail is important.

“I’d really encourage other Unitec students to use Unitec careers page and the resources that are provided by Unitec for job preparedness, but most of all always include your cover letter! While your CV does the job in telling employers what you’ve done, a cover letter can be an opportunity to tell them who you are and the value that brings the company, so grab that opportunity!”

 “We’d definitely look at using Unitec’s service again for recruitment.”

The Turner & Townsend graduate programme was launched in March 2022, with the first intake of graduates onboarded in August 2022. The company had shared details about the programme on Unitec’s talent page, and it provided a key platform to kick-start the programme. They have since hired a number of Unitec graduates as a result.

They look for candidates who have good communication skills, are commercial thinkers, team players and committed to making a difference.

“Contact and correspondence with Unitec representatives was straightforward and easy, and provided the engagement assurance we needed,” says Liam David, Cost Manager, Turner & Townsend. “Unitec’s Careers page was concise, clear and wide-reaching, and provided a key platform to kick-start our annual graduate programme in 2022. We’d definitely look at using Unitec’s service again for recruitment.”