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Become a mature age engineer - ask yourself why not, not why Wednesday, 03 October 2018

We hear a lot about encouraging young people into engineering but what about mature people who have the desire and know-how to also make the grade?

One such engineer is Giovanni Rapana who studied an Advanced Diploma of Engineering at TAFE in 2013 and went on to complete a degree in civil engineering at Griffith University last year. And he did it while working full-time, with a young family.

When he was younger, Giovanni worked in the family’s concreting business, but he decided he wanted more out of life and expand his skills.

“Nobody in my family went to university. My dad had a concreting business and it was either that or rugby league for me,” Rapana said. “I finished high school and was labouring for a number of years, but I realised really quickly that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.  

After the birth of his first child, Rapana commenced tertiary studies, but knew it wouldn’t be easy. However, those with engineering in their blood always ask ‘why not’ instead of ‘why’.

“I knew it was going to be hard, but I wanted to get a degree under my belt because I felt that I was cheating myself,” he explained. “I knew I had more in me. If I can do an engineering degree with three kids and work full-time, anybody can do it.”  

After securing an initial graduate position with a civil consulting company in 2017, Rapana has since taken up his new role with the City of Gold Coast council as a senior project manager. He now works on a number of coastal infrastructure projects.  

“One of the projects I’m currently working on is an underground seawall in front of Kurrawa Park in Broadbeach, which acts as a protection to our coastline in large storm events,” Rapana said. “It’s been really interesting to me because I’ve never worked on coastal projects before.”

The seawall is in the planning and design phase, according to Rapana, and someone with a construction engineering background was needed to oversee it. He said his team is also upgrading the 21st and 11th Avenue groynes, so they are reviewing the structure to determine the scope of the project.

With years of juggling home life and work, his studies are now paying off, and Rapana has advice to future engineering students of any age in the form of a Maori saying: Do the mahi (work) and get the treats.

“I strongly believe that if there is a will there is a way,” he said.  “An engineering degree is relatively hard, but … treat it like a full-time job and keep chipping away. If you can learn to manage your studies, it will pay off.”


Image: Giovanni Rapana. Source: Griffith University.