In late 2021, Martyn Cross, the Managing Director at HSR Southern Cross (HSR), came across Generation STEM Links, an internship program run by CSIRO that provides support to small and medium-sized enterprises.
After learning about Generation STEM Links, Martyn signed up HSR, his NSW-based truck transportation business, which he's led for more than 21 years, to help recruit a junior engineer. Although HSR currently employs 34 staff, hiring a junior was an entirely new process for him and the team.
Support with finding the right candidate
Martyn felt that the Generation STEM Links program could offer HSR a more tailored approach for recruitment than the usual university channels.
"We basically gave the CSIRO a wish list, which they granted. It was like Santa Claus. It was terrific. Everyone in the office enjoyed and appreciated it," says Martyn.
Following a meeting with the team, the recruitment began for a student with the right technical skills who could complement HSR's work culture. The process took about four weeks, involving advertising the job opening and reviewing and interviewing the applicants.
"The candidates were exceptional, and the one we chose couldn't be a better fit on every level. He had the right soft skills; interpersonal relationships; level of understanding of the profession; ability to use the software and ability to understand the practical side of it," he notes.
Gordon's integration into the business was seamless. Martyn says there's a 40-year difference between Gordon and the senior engineer, but they really get along. "They understand each other and talk openly. Their communication is very good. So, I would say the CSIRO hit the nail on the head," he adds.
The power of mentorship and reputation
Gordon Co is studying for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in mechanical and mechatronic engineering, at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He applied for a Generation STEM Links placement through a dedicated UTS internships webpage, with his work placement at HSR being his first professional engineering job.
Gordon had also successfully applied for several work experience programs before accepting a position with HSR. But the CSIRO's involvement and the chance to get in-depth one-on-one mentorship with a senior HSR engineer swayed him towards HSR.
As with HSR, Gordon felt that the CSIRO's shortlisting of applicants helped streamline the recruitment process – reducing the need for multiple interviews and assessment tasks.
A 'hands-on' placement
Gordon was hired in early 2022 as a junior engineer on a six-month contract, with HSR topping up the 200 hours required by Generation STEM Links.
During the internship, Gordon worked independently under the supervision of HSR's senior engineer to design and innovate trucking equipment. Notably, since starting at HSR, Gordon has created a skip-loader and implemented coding scripts to streamline manual processes. His coding knowledge is one example of how recent university graduates can bring new ICT innovations and efficiencies to an established business.
Gordon also noted that compared to his university peers participating in similar internship programs, his experience has been very hands-on. Through his placement, Gordon’s seen the entire mechatronic engineering design process, from calculations to modelling and drafting, offering insights into his potential future.
"Nothing can beat the experience of actually working in an industry. It was easier for me to grasp everything once it was explained in person. Then I could learn and see what it was like implementing them in the real world," he says.
Martyn adds that Gordon has since completed a machine of his own, an incredible feat for someone in his first year out of university. "Gordon works quite autonomously and only refers to his supervisor when he has the odd problem or two," he says.
A positive experience leads to offer
Gordon has continued with HSR since completing his STEM Links placement and remains employed under his original six-month contract. "[The student] has requested to stay on after his intern position, which we've warmly received. He's talking about a five-to-10-year plan. So, we're over the moon," says Martyn.
This experience with Generation STEM Links has also helped Gordon confirm that this is what he wants to do. "The mechatronic industry is where I want to work, climb the ranks, get a better resume, and learn as much as possible," he says.