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Engineering a career change

3 Nov 2022

When you’ve become accustomed to a specific work environment for almost a decade it takes both courage and encouragement to transition to a new career.

Former Australian Defence Force member James Ghent enlisted with the navy straight from high school, and while it was a rewarding experience, the desire to seek out new horizons eventually led him to the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, graduated from Coolum State High, and I have always loved the vibe of the area, so it drew me back in,” explains James.

“The opportunity to be in a relaxing environment while studying for the first time in a while was important to me.

“I’m a chilled-out person and that resonates with the UniSC lifestyle.”

James opted to pivot towards a career in engineering, with a particular focus on sustainable development, climate-sensitive construction and project management.

UniSC proved a fitting home, as it is now ranked as the top Queensland university working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

“I love making change,” James enthuses.

“Engineering is an opportunity to create big change.

“I thought ‘That’s what I really want to achieve’.”

The first step towards James’s burning ambition came when he enrolled in a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, Environment and Water, where he achieved a commendable grade point average (GPA) of 6.25.

Not only did he excel academically, but he also took on extra-curricular roles as a student mentor, student ambassador, STEM leader, as well as supporting PhD candidates.

“Coming from the Australian Defence Force, I had that sense of discipline and application to perform well in the face of challenges,” James says.

“I think the workplace experience I gained straight from high school made me a better student, made me appreciate the opportunity, and gave me perspective about how much harder things could be.

“In many ways, studying was quite easy compared to all the daily activities of being in the navy, but the flipside of course is a reduction in income.

“Still, I found the change in circumstance made me prioritise differently and look at what I valued, which in itself was a refreshing sensation.”

James has since found himself employed by world-class design, planning, engineering, architectural and technical specialists Arup as the Australasian Sustainable Development Programme Manager.

The multinational corporation employs approximately 16,000 staff across 90 offices around the globe.

“I lead and drive Arup’s sustainable development agenda,” James says.

“These days you will find me focussing on climate change, a decarbonised economy, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

James Ghent

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