• My name is Baxter Howard and I was born in Warrnambool and raised in South Purrumbete, which is about a 30-minute drive from Mortlake, where I work on ACCIONA’s Mortlake South Wind Farm.

Growing up on a farm, early on it was apparent to me (and my family) that farming life wasn’t for me! My family was supportive that I was about to break the long running chain of farmers and wanted to go in another direction (although, not too far, still working on a farm, only one that generates clean energy). I figured out that I wanted to study Engineering. Upon entering University, I had to determine which discipline of engineering I wanted to pursue, and I landed on electrical due to the growth and potential career opportunities I could see in renewable energies. Helping the planet and making a living sounded pretty good to me.

How I got to be a Graduate Engineer at ACCIONA

Approaching the final years of my Bachelor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, I was looking to undertake an internship. ACCIONA offered Industry Based Learning Cadetships, which I saw advertised via Deakin University as a three-month placement in the fields of Engineering, Construction and Project Management, Environmental Studies, and Business. After being successful, I undertook 12 months of hands on experience, whilst still studying. ACCIONA was always highly supportive of my studies, regularly encouraging me to take time off for exams and being flexible with workload.

Once I graduated, I was fortunate enough to continue working for ACCIONA on the Mortlake South Wind Farm as a Graduate Engineer and this is where my graduate story begins…

A Day in the life of a Graduate Engineer

I remember early on was a steep learning curve of how to conduct myself in a construction environment and the appreciation for how much work goes into designing large scale construction projects. During the civil works phase, some of my responsibilities included ensuring design compliance, reviewing contracts and ensure proper engineering procedures where adhered to, which in turn deliver the best results for ACCIONA and the landowners. I studied every detail of those designs so that when inspections were on, I would understand what was going on and be able to help.

As part of the electrical team, the main work component related to the conduits in the foundations and the earthing of the wind turbines. I was involved in the technical engagements design, review and implementation - supporting the Project Electrical Engineer. I was also tasked with some site admin and procurement as well.

I have been very fortunate for the experiences that I’ve had, especially because this project offered so many unique aspects - two different substations, a Medium Voltage (MW) network, an underground 220KV network and the complete installation of the turbines. ACCIONA certainly provided me opportunities, not only to enhance myself technically, but professionally as well. I’ve received numerous opportunities to speak in front of my peers, the wider community and even present to the global heads of the business about our small part of the world in Mortlake.

My advice to other graduates

My advice for anyone reading this is that hands on experience will trump anything you can learn at University.

  • Apply for Internships while you are studying
  • Take opportunities when they come your way
  • Network and create connections in the business
  • Ask questions
  • Do any online training that the organisation provides, even though it may seem tedious, it will be worth it in the long run
  • Be confident in your work and in your decision making
  • Be proud of your achievements, however big or small they may feel

I know I will look back on this project most fondly because of the great culture and how close the team was. I can’t speak highly enough of the leadership, mentors and experiences I’ve had over the course of the project, always willing to teach and extend the opportunity to develop my skills as a young engineer. I will always be grateful that I applied for the Cadetship as it has truly been the foundation of kick-starting my career. By the time you read this, the Mortlake South Wind Farm will be finished construction and I will be getting ready to move to sunny Queensland, working on ACCIONA’s next big project - the MacIntyre Wind Farm Precinct.