Putting knowledge into practice through industry placements

As part of MSD’s Vocational Placement subject in 2018, three Masters students completed work experience at SMEC, an engineering and development consultancy that specialises in delivering physical and social infrastructure services to clients, including managing the lifecycle of projects across urban renewal, transport design and the energy sectors.

Masters students at SMEC

Master of Landscape Architecture students Momoka Kawauchi and Prue Batchelor together with Master of Urban Planning student Francesca Soler undertook a three week placement at SMEC’s Melbourne office where they worked on a development project for underutilised space in Sunshine.

We caught up with Francesca to find out about her experiences throughout the internship.

How did you find out about the internship at SMEC?
I found the internship advertised on the Environments and Design Students Internships and Vocational Placements page.

What made you choose to study urban planning?
I chose urban planning because I am interested in the way that cities are able to shape the experiences of people daily, and I wanted to be able to help create accessible places that enhance people’s lives.

What work did you do during your internship?
During my internship I was involved in the ‘Make It Sunshine’ project which involved investigating currently underutilised areas in Sunshine with potential for future development. We were seeking to propose changes that would merge old characteristics of the suburb with new interventions that would allow for the suburb to accommodate future growth and become more vibrant.

As part of this project I was involved in various stages from its beginning to completion such as collecting demographic and suburb data (through site visits and research), understanding relevant planning schemes and strategies, finding underutilised areas and exploring potential interventions. Momoka, Prue and I collated all our work on the project and presented it to the SMEC Planning, Landscape and Urban Design team.

How did you translate your knowledge from the classroom into practice?
During my internship I needed to draw on various aspects of my knowledge and skills that I have gained throughout my degree. For example, I had to apply my knowledge of the Victorian Planning and Environment Act to the project we were working on in order to understand the limitations and opportunities of what proposals we could come up with. I also needed to draw upon skills I have learnt such as understanding land use zones and overlays, relating current and relevant strategies and policies, exploring current uses of space and potential changes for the future, and utilising design skills I have gained in programs such as Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. All of this assisted in understanding and exploring Sunshine and the potential proposals we could suggest for the site in our presentation.

Francesca present group work at SMEC
Francesca presents the group's findings to colleagues. Image courtesy of SMEC.

What was it like working alongside two other interns doing the MSD Vocational Placement subject?
It was really beneficial collaborating with Momoka and Pru. Both are studying landscape architecture, and because I’m studying urban planning, we were able to approach the project from different angles and different ways of thinking. We were able to view this project from the macro level right to the micro level which allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the site and produce various different outcomes compared to if we were all from the same discipline.

As there were three of us and we were from different disciplines we were also able to learn more about how working in a team would function in a professional context and how we needed to delegate tasks and work towards deadlines.

What was the most rewarding part of the internship?
I found being able to work within a team to achieve the same desired outcomes very rewarding. It allowed me to reflect on how I operate as an urban planner and the way this affected the project we were working on as well as the way I tackled tasks. This was important as it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of what my strengths and passions are within planning in addition to learning what gaps I currently have in my knowledge and how I can improve upon them.

How has your experience studying at the University of Melbourne supported you in gaining industry-relevant knowledge/experience?

Doing my Master of Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne has equipped me with relevant knowledge that has allowed me to work within a professional context with people from other disciplines. What I have learnt during my degree is relevant to what is currently going on within the planning field and will allow me to work within my chosen career path confidently.

I have gained a holistic understanding of planning and its various facets which I believe will allow me to seamlessly transfer my knowledge and skills from a university setting into a professional setting after I graduate.

Group shot at SMEC
Momoka, Prue and Francesca with their colleagues at SMEC. Image courtesy of SMEC.