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Caroline Van den Broek
University of Melbourne
Caroline studied Masters of Construction Management at University of Melbourne
What's your job about?
Probuild is one of Australia’s largest Construction Companies which boasts a wide portfolio including commercial, residential, education, retail and civil projects. As the “Head Contractor” Probuild are the link between the client, consultants and subcontractors. Our focus is the management of people and resources, we do not actually build anything but create the environment to be able do so efficiently and effectively.
As a graduate I am fortunate enough to be exposed to the variety of different roles available at Probuild including, estimating, contracts administration, design management, coordination, site supervision and leadership. My day-to-day activities will vary according to the module I am undertaking at the time, however I will be consistently working closely with my project team deliver high quality products, on time and within budget.
To date I am half way through my Graduate programme and have been most heavily involved with the management of Quality management at the front and back end of the project as well as contracts administration. Managing the quality means that I must work closely with the trades and our team to ensure we are building to the desired quality and building things right the first time around. When completing my contracts administration module I also began to get involved with the Client and Probuild upper management. This module allowed me to gain a better understanding of all the behind the scenes financial and contractual management required for a successful project. It is essential that the trades are procured in line with the programme and budget, are competent to complete the task and understand exactly what is required which forms their ‘scope of works’.
The Probuild Graduate system is great in that it gives you exposure to the variety of options available within the company and allows you to gain a comprehensive base understanding of the overall industry.
What's your background?
I am originally from regional Victoria and grew up in the town of Ballarat, which is only an hour and a half from Melbourne. I have found being from Ballarat to be a massive advantage both professionally and socially in that it encouraged me to be a lot more outgoing, friendly and independent.
Throughout High School I knew that I wanted to move down to Melbourne to complete my University studies as it presented new and exciting opportunities. Doing so meant I had to become independent quite early on, at just 18, so to ease my way into Melbourne I stayed on campus at St Hildas College. Attending a college allowed me to make a lot of friends in Melbourne which proved to be invaluable for my career and integration into Melbourne. At Melbourne University I completed a Bachelors Degree of Environments, originally intending to major in civil engineering and then altering course based on an increasing interest in construction.
Whilst completing the last year of my Bachelor degree, I received my first job in the industry working at APP Corporation on the Melbourne Formula 1 Australian Granprix project within the project management team. This was a great stepping stone into the industry, however I found myself wanting to apply some of the technical construction knowledge gained during my Bachelor’s degree and become more involved more in the delivery phase.
In 2015 after taking some time off to travel through Europe, I received an Undergraduate position with Probuild. Similar to my appointment at APP I was fortunate to have University connections which recommended me for the position. Within the Undergraduate position I was fortunate to work full time for 8 months, thereby allowing me to complete 8 months of the Graduate Program. Once I returned to complete my Masters in Construction Management I continued to work part time at Probuild. I found that working and studying complemented each other very well and helped to supplement my studies. It was extremely helpful that Probuild were so supportive of me returning to study and allowed me the flexibility to do so.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes. I have found that many skills required for construction management would be transferrable from different industries. This includes skills such as communication, organisation, initiative and a willingness to learn. As I have talked about above, our industry really comes down to the management of people and resources. Having a basic understanding of the industry is obviously a benefit, however Probuild provides its employees ample opportunity to learn and develop their skills and understanding. When I started as an undergraduate, I was still very green to the industry and learnt a lot just by having a willingness to get involved and by asking a lot of questions.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
By far the most rewarding thing is putting all of your time and effort into something that becomes a tangible reality. When reviewing drawings and developing the design, you don’t need to wait long to see it come to life out on site step by step. Seeing the completed project and all of your hard work come to fruition is quite unique to this industry.
Another huge plus is the team moral developed over the project duration. Whether you’re working within a large retail team or a small residential project I find that you develop an extremely close bond with your team members.
What are the limitations of your job?
Working in Construction is extremely demanding, it requires working long hours and the occasional weekend, depending on the phase of the project. The early mornings are often the most acute limitation especially as a newcomer to the industry. This is however what is required in order to deliver a cost effective high quality project both to the Client and for the Company. Although it is a shock you do soon become used to it and better at achieving work life balance.
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...
- Take some time off and travel. Going overseas was one of the best things I did, it also allowed me to really knuckle down when I came back and throw myself into work. Take the time now when it’s easier to do so, you won’t regret it.
- Get some experience to see what you like. Working in project management was great but showed me that I wanted to be involved more heavily in the actual delivery and build of the project. You never know what you will like until you try it, sometimes trial and error is the best method.
- Get to know your peers on your year. Almost all of my employment opportunities have been assisted by people I studied with at University. If you stay in the industry you will see their faces again and again, it’s a relatively small industry in Melbourne.