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Why our new engineering students have a PEP in their step

8 April 2019
The program redefining professional and industry work experience
Our award-winning Professional Engagement Program aims to change the way our engineering students think about learning through self-reflection and extra-curricular activities throughout their degree.
Engineering students stands on a dried up chemical waste sludge bed

In 2018 the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies implemented the Professional Engagement Program, a new model of how we expose students to industry and professional work.

In lieu of the traditional 12-week summer placements between third and fourth years, the Professional Engagement Program (PEP) requires students to complete 600 hours of in-curricular and extra-curricular activities, designed to develop student’s workplace competencies and transferrable employability skills that companies look for in engineering graduates.

These activities have included everything from industry projects, guest lectures and sites visits to non-engineering extra-circular activities including volunteering, playing in a band or even a part-time job.

Self-reflection and peer review are central to the program’s success, as it encourages students to draw links between their experiences and learning to purposefully identify where they have opportunity to develop interpersonal and professional skills.

We spoke with current engineering students to find out how they are finding the first year of the program and if it has helped to shape their experience at university.

Students collaborating at a workshop for PEP hours

Kiri – Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Chemical and Biomolecular) / Bachelor of Science

My PEP hours have included paid employment like sports coaching, copywriting for a florist and an online short course on communications through Lynda.

It’s through these types of PEP activities that I’ve gained a greater knowledge of what it means to be an engineer and develop the skills that will be required in the workplace, such as leadership and effective communication.

My advice for others doing PEP is to make good use of the suggested PEP activities page.

Marcus – Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Mechanical) / Bachelor of Commerce

Going to networking events has allowed myself to build on my communication skills, while participating in the Accenture Case Crack competition fine-tuned my problem-solving skills. I feel that both will have a great impact on my time while at university due to the large amounts of group work involved in engineering.

I’ve taken part in a range of engineering challenges such as the Kaggle Speech Recognition Challenge and the Telstra Innovation Challenge which allowed me to work on and improve my coding skills. These skills are crucial as many technologies in the engineering fields involve the use of software.

My advice for others doing PEP is that the more you put into the program, the more you will get out of it. Start early and be consistent with your claims as it helps to build the hours over the semester.

Nelson – Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Aeronautical)

At first, I didn’t really value the idea of ‘reflective learning’ that is quite central to the program. This changed when I realised that this introspection was lacking in my other engineering units.

We evaluate ideas, learn to use modern tools and techniques for problem solving, but you’re never asked to focus on how you fit into the world of engineering. PEP pushes you to consider ‘what skills can I work on to make myself a better engineer, community member or colleague? What activities are best to help me develop those skills?’.

PEP motivated me to pursue my interest in producing protheses by setting up a Sydney Chapter of the charity e-NABLE where I can use the University Fab Lab facilities to 3D print parts for prostheses hands.

My advice for others doing PEP is to embrace the fact that your education requires extra-curricular activity to really thrive as an engineer.

Sonya - Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Chemical and Biomolecular) / Bachelor of Science

This program has, in a number of ways, engaged me to seek out opportunities for growth – both professionally and personally. It has shown me that the process of reflection is a powerful tool as it enables development of myself, my actions and my interactions in whatever role I find myself in.

I’ve participated in activities and events that exposed me to new people and new ideas, such as a creative thinking workshop at the Commonwealth Bank and a site tour of a brewery.

My advice for others doing PEP is to have a positive attitude towards the program will make it an enjoyable learning experience rather than a chore.

The organisers go to great lengths to supply students with a huge variety of ideas for activities that are PEP-appropriate, organised both within the university and by external parties like Engineers Australia


The Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies received the 2018 Award of Engineering Education Engagement, by the Australasian Association for Engineering Education.

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