24 February 2023

No better time for graduates to climb the ranks of the construction industry

| Dione David
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Hugo Villano

Geocon project manager Hugo Villano says there’s no better time to take on a cadetship in the built environment industry. Photo: Liv Cameron.

The built environment industry is ripe with new career opportunities as companies work to get talent into the pipeline and incubate the next generation of industry leaders.

Geocon’s Graduate Program is a prime example – many of its stewards are senior staff members who have risen through the ranks after completing the program themselves.

One of them is project manager Hugo Villano. After studying architecture at the University of Canberra, he caught wind of this practical approach to getting a foot in the door of the lucrative industry.

In 2019 he interviewed for a construction cadetship with director of construction Damien Rumble and senior project manager Ned Pattinson.

“What struck me was how both of them had started in the company in junior roles,” he says.

“Their rise to senior positions was a testament to the pathway laid out for junior staff.”

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Hugo spent his first months at head office working on design, planning and procurement for the Metropol project in Reid, learning the baseline principles and responsibilities of a junior project manager or project engineer’s role.

From there, he moved on to the Midnight development in Braddon, working closely with Ned and Adam Evans, a fellow former cadet turned project manager.

“The best part was that the two project managers mentoring me had been through the same pathway, so they were sympathetic to my posture as a cadet,” Hugo says.

“They’d been through the journey; they knew how to make it a great experience and help me navigate what can be a huge challenge.”

Four years later, Hugo himself has enjoyed a rise in the ranks, which he attributes to the level of exposure he received during his cadetship.

“Over just four years, I worked on three of the company’s developments – Metropol, Midnight and Establishment,” he says.

“I have been a part of the lifespan of these projects, which yielded 1200 units collectively.

“For someone starting in a junior position, to be able to look back and see that I have already played a part in creating 1200 homes is incredible. Not every cadetship can offer that.”

Hugo says his experience demonstrated how far “above and beyond the usual role of a construction cadet” the program took its participants.

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Geocon’s Graduate Program begins with skills training in the office, working on different platforms across the company’s active projects, typically in various stages of completion, from design and planning to finalisation.

Cadets attend industry talks from experts on construction, design, planning and development and enjoy networking opportunities with the company’s trusted partners.

This means industry leaders offer up their time to explain how their services fit into the bigger picture, giving cadets a chance to form relationships before working with them onsite.

Eventually, cadets get hands-on experience at development sites.

Hugo says there has never been a better time to break into the industry, with cadets forming a critical part of the solution to the industry’s skill shortages.

“Damien, Ned, Adam and myself are just a few examples of juniors who came through our development pathways and went on to become senior staff members,” he says.

“We believe this grassroots system can get the best out of our employees, so we value our cadets. When they start with us at that level, they gain a deep understanding of our culture, systems and processes. This creates the proper foundation to step up to higher levels.

“Through a combination of nurturing and providing strong real-life experience to develop their skills, we’re confident we’re building good hands to leave the future of our business in.

“In terms of experience, we know you can’t learn everything behind a computer or in the classroom, so we provide exposure and the chance to learn onsite, in real life, in real time, dealing with real people.

“And in terms of nurturing, we care about the success of our cadets. We want to see them climb the ranks, so they can invest in the company as we have invested in them.”

Visit Geocon Graduate Program for more information.


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