Students explore country career paths

Published 23 March 2009

ruralcareersDozens of regionally-based organisations participated in the University of New England’s first Rural Careers Expo, enabling students at the University to gain first-hand knowledge of graduate employment opportunities in regional NSW.

“It was an opportunity for our students to speak directly with people working in a professional field, and to find out about employment, work experience, and scholarship opportunities,” said Airlie Bell, a UNE Careers Officer. “We’re delighted at the response from employers – so many, from across such a wide cross-section of professions.”

A steady stream of students visited the expo in UNE’s Lazenby Hall earlier this month, and talked to the professional people who were providing information at their respective stalls. Sandra Stuart from Nambucca Heads, a final-year student of Psychology and Law, said she had come to the expo because she was hoping to find employment in the Armidale region – perhaps in a State Government department. Sandra was impressed by the number of organisations represented – including several State Government departments and agencies. Her visit to the expo was fortunate in more ways than one, as she was one of five winners of “lucky door” prizes donated by Forsyths Chartered Accountants.

Several of the professional people who visited UNE for the Rural Careers Expo are themselves graduates of UNE. One of those – Gennie Gittoes, who graduated in Rural Science in 1981 – is now the New England Regional Service Manager for the NSW Farmers Association. Ms Gittoes explained that the NSW Farmers Association, in its capacity as a lobby group for rural and regional rights and the sustainability of rural communities, had joined with UNE in planning the expo.

Another visiting graduate was Brendan Murray, a partner in Bentleys Chartered Accountants, who holds a UNE degree in Financial Administration. “UNE graduates are excellent candidates for recruiting to our firm,” Mr Murray said. Speaking at the expo, he announced that – starting this year – Bentleys would be offering two $500 bursaries a year to UNE undergraduates – one to a second-year student (along with a month’s work experience in the firm) and the other to a third-year student (with the possibility of a subsequent graduate position).

Gabrielle McFarland (pictured here with Brendan Murray), Human Resources Manager for Boyce Chartered Accountants, announced that her firm was inaugurating a sponsorship program for emerging graduates, beginning in 2010, in memory of Tony Quirk – a UNE graduate and Boyce Director who died in 2005. The “Tony Quirk Accounting Sponsorship”, for a UNE student in the final year of an Accounting/Economics or Financial Administration degree program, carries a financial incentive of $4,000 and a guarantee of 12 months’ work in the firm’s Moree office. Applications for the inaugural award close on the 29th of May, 2009.

Amy Nason from Grad-Link, the graduate management arm of the agricultural recruitment and information company Rimfire Resources, said that UNE graduates were “highly regarded” by employers in the agricultural industries. Other organisations represented at the expo included the Benevolent Society, Hunter New England Health, the Road Transport Authority, the Border Rivers – Gwydir Catchment Management Authority, Moree Plains Shire Council, and the Brolga Project – a government-funded initiative that helps university students find work experience opportunities in rural and regional Australia.

In the light of the success of UNE’s first Rural Careers Expo, Ms Bell said that she and her colleagues were “looking forward to repeating it as an annual event”.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Gabrielle McFarland and Brendan Murray displayed here expands to include UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb.