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AMC alumni navigates sea of choices to dream job

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Keegan Graham-Parker grew up in a seafaring and fishing family from a small town south of Cairns so believed he was always likely to end up in a maritime-related industry.

Keegan Graham-Parker grew up in a seafaring and fishing family from a small town south of Cairns so believed he was always likely to end up in a maritime-related industry.

After school he went to sea for the better part of five years as a deckhand in commercial shipping on the northern and eastern coasts of Australia.

But hereditary colour blindness halted his ambitions to drive boats.

“I thought if I can’t drive them I am going to design them,” he said.

He was attracted by the AMC’s internationally-recognised naval architecture and engineering courses and did four years of study.

One of the big highlights was a trip to Switzerland for an international remote control hydrofoiling boat competition

“The team I was in comprised of 10 students all in their third and fourth years.

“We designed, built and raced two different boats whilst competing against 24 teams from across the globe”.

Shortly before graduating he landed a job with the ASC Pty Ltd in Western Australia and Adelaide working in submarine maintenance and sustainment.

“Most of the naval architecture department had studied at AMC at some stage so being an AMC graduate too definitely helped,” he said.

“I spent just over a year there working on maintaining the Collins Class submarines, looking at upgrades, everything to do with pulling them in and out of water alongside and at sea stability and general engineering tasks.

Keegan, 27, said despite doubts about his direction at the start of his degree he is glad he stuck with it.

“For the first and second year I was learning a lot of theory, a lot of maths and I thought maybe my previous seafaring experience hadn’t helped,” he said

“But towards the end of the degree when I was doing ship design and problems like “how big do I need to make this gap to fit this spanner  in” it definitely helped.

“I am seeing that more and more now that I am out of Uni and with employers are saying “wow how did you know that “ so it has helped for sure.

He said he had found several employers in the naval architecture area who definitely preferred employing AMC graduates.

The degree was pretty well regarded and in my time at AMC there was a lot of industry collaboration projects so you got to talk with and work with people from industry

“It helped build relationships and you start to get a feel for what it’s actually like in the world outside Uni and you reinforce that through intern work and general networking.

Keegan said practical work on AMC facilities had been invaluable.

“After first year you spend a lot of time in the build studios getting your hands on the tools and there are a number of projects building model submarines, model ships and offshore structures,” he said.

“Then in your final year doing your honours thesis there is the potential for a lot of hands-on work depending on the research project you end up working on.

Keegan is enjoying working on long term projects with his present employer Thrust Maritime in Melbourne.

“We mainly specialise in the design and integration of offshore lifting devices primarily for offshore vessels in the oil and gas industry. This work is mainly focused in hyperbaric recovery and subsea operations.

“Recently we have also got work alongside a number of companies designing a new submarine rescue system which is a massive project over the next few years, so that is really exciting and can't wait to see that through.”

“We have even got one here at the AMC where we are designing a new lifting appliance for the main training vessel Bluefin.

Keegan said AMC’s courses led to a diverse range of career opportunities.

“You can study naval architecture but you do not necessarily have to work as a naval architect after Uni you can go into project engineering, marine surveying marine superintendency or you can even go shoreside and step away from the maritime industry all together and work as a structural or mechanical engineer,” he said.

Keegan said the $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise was a potential option in the future.

“Because of the scope and size of it at the moment it is definitely appealing,” he said.

“It is a perfect opportunity for graduates due to the number of jobs that has and are yet to be created but its just another pathway and the commercial/ civilian side of the industry hopefully will also see benefits from those defence projects kicking off.

"Its an exciting time to be working in the marine engineering sphere," he said.

Published on: 16 Sep 2020