Global firm favours local graduates
A commitment to hiring local graduates is proving to be a smart move for an Adelaide-based company.
Hiring staff is one of the most important decisions any company will make. That's why Adelaide-based company Spectra QEST keeps coming back to the University of Adelaide - the company knows the value of an Adelaide graduate.
More than half of the engineers employed at Spectra QEST come from the University of Adelaide, many of them having benefited from work experience, sponsored projects and internships at the company.
Spectra QEST specialises in software for testing construction materials, as well as software for geotechnical testing and concrete production. Although a relatively small company of 20 staff, it's the biggest company of its type in the world, with its software in use on major construction projects in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the Middle East.
For example, Spectra QEST software is currently being used to support a huge road construction project under way in the US - the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) Connector in Texas spans four highways, two interchanges and five bridges at a total cost of more than US$1 billion.
When it's completed, the new road infrastructure will intersect the four most populous counties in north Texas, making it a vital connection for many communities.
Three Spectra QEST engineers - Michael Howland, Krzysztof Kot and David Lucas - have spent time based in the US to work on this and other significant projects. All three are University of Adelaide graduates, with Bachelor degrees in Engineering (Computer Systems) and Mathematical and Computer Sciences.
"This is the largest project I have worked on in my career; it is also the world's most progressive quality management platform ever used in a road project," says Krzysztof, who recently returned to Adelaide after being on secondment to the US subsidiary of Spectra QEST.
"With more than $1 billion in public money being spent on this project, every effort is being made to ensure the highest possible construction quality. That's where our software comes in.
"Without our systems in place, the technicians at the site would normally record the results of their field tests on paper worksheets to be collated at the end of each day. If you consider that around 7500 test reports are being completed in a typical month, we've saved the project a huge amount of time and paperwork. And the accuracy of our systems is second to none."
Such tests include soil asphalt and concrete tests, as well as tracking materials performance, among many other aspects of the project.
"The results of these tests and inspections have a direct impact on the project. They form a critical part of the quality management process and are required so that construction can continue at each major stage," Krzysztof says.
This is just one of many projects involving University of Adelaide graduates working at Spectra QEST.
"We currently have more than 10 engineers who are alumni of the University of Adelaide, many of who have been working with us since before they graduated," says Stephan Mavrakis, the company's Director, Resources & Markets.
Himself an alumnus of the University of Adelaide - with a Bachelor of Engineering, a Bachelor in Maths and Computer Science and a Graduate Diploma in Business Enterprise - Stephan says Spectra QEST's close ties with the University have been vital in the cultivation of quality staff.
"Every single key technical position at our company is filled by a University of Adelaide engineering or science graduate, and more than 50% of our workforce comes from the University," he says. And that is before we count the new intake of staff that we are currently hiring, most of who are expected to be graduate and undergraduate engineers from the University of Adelaide.
"Adelaide has a reputation for being the premier technical university in this State, and there's no doubt that the University's graduates are very clever people. Speaking from experience, the courses at the University are demanding."
Stephan says one of the best attributes of Adelaide graduates is that they are trained to solve problems.
"Our company has been around for 27 years and there are always changes in technology; there's no way a university can train you to know everything about the various technologies out there. But what they can do is train students to take a problem, break it up into its various elements, and come up with creative solutions. That's what helps to prepare graduates for the future, and it's a quality we always see in the graduates coming from the University of Adelaide."
Stephan says Spectra QEST takes seriously its commitment to local graduates.
"It's really important for us to be able to demonstrate that companies here in Adelaide can be successful on the global stage; there's not always a need to go to Sydney or Melbourne to establish a successful technical career," he says. ■
Story by David Ellis