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I was first made aware of the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year award during my summer placement after my first year at university. One of the site engineers happened to mention it and encouraged me to apply. I felt that, if nothing else, it was a great opportunity to develop both my personal skills and professional network.

As part of the initial application I was required to answer two industry specific questions; these enabled me to demonstrate my knowledge and passion for the construction industry. As Laing O’Rourke were the sponsors for the award, I carried out some research on the company and learnt about their investment in Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA). I decided to use this as the innovation that I expected to see in the construction industry that would support the sustainability agenda in the next 10-15 years.

For the project I wished I'd worked on, I wrote about Crossrail Farringdon Station, not only because of its magnitude but also because the Project Manager, Linda Miller, initially inspired me to pursue a career in civil engineering during my visits to the site.

To be honest I found the online tests that followed to be one of the most challenging aspects of the selection process. I actually enjoyed completing the non-verbal reasoning style test but the personality style test I found more difficult. I think this was due to the fact that I found it hard to prioritise the statements regarding which personal characteristics were most and least like me.

I was thrilled to reach the Assessment Centre stage, although I have to admit the snowy weather and travel disruptions certainly didn’t help settle my nerves on the day. Luckily, however, I managed to arrive at Laing O’Rourke’s offices in good time and was able to meet the other candidates before it began. The group discussion was a great way to showcase your teamwork and leadership qualities as well as your knowledge of the industry. This was followed by an interview with one of the representatives from Laing O’Rourke.

I was equally shocked and excited to find out that I had made it to the Grand Final.

The day itself was fantastic. It was great to meet my fellow finalists and learn of their achievements and experiences, as well as the representatives from Laing O’Rourke and of course Rachel Riley. As a STEM Ambassador myself, and an advocate for promoting women in STEM, it was lovely to talk to Rachel about her own experiences and the work she is doing to inspire the next generation.

After a lovely meal, the awards were announced and to be honest I still can't quite believe I won! I feel honoured to have been presented with the Construction and Engineering Undergraduate of the Year Award and cannot wait to travel to Australia in August and begin my all-expenses-paid work experience. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn new practices and procedures, meet some inspiring people and explore a new country.

We caught up with Rachel after she had completed her placement to see what she got up to...

I can’t believe how quickly my three-week work placement in Australia with Laing O’Rourke flew by! I honestly had the most incredible time and learned so much from being able to see a wide range of projects and meet so many people from across the business in a variety of roles. From being on the 34th floor of what will be the tallest building in North Sydney overlooking Sydney Harbour, to a 155km long road project upgrading a section of the Pacific Highway, to seeing the fit-out of the ACT Law courts building, to the refurbishment works at the Sydney Opera House, the projects I visited were all so different and unique. The team in Australia looked after me so well and, as well as learning a lot technically, I also had the chance to explore a bit of Australia as I was based in Sydney, Yamba and Canberra for my three weeks. I had the opportunity to visit the Blue Mountains and Parliament House, feed kangaroos, go whale watching and even watch an opera at the Sydney Opera House. It honestly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one I feel so fortunate to have had!