20 July, 2019

Self-starting pays off handsomely for student

01 October, 2012

An engineering student who spent his spare time learning about an emerging new technology has been rewarded by winning a coveted role working for a multinational company.

Bisrat Degefa, 22, is studying Construction Engineering Management at the University of Portsmouth and was offered a five month paid internship working for Laing O’Rourke after his prowess with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) was spotted at a national competition.

He was tapped on the shoulder by a senior manager from Laing O’Rourke after the competition and asked if he would like to help lead a new pilot project implementing an innovative global remote tracking of offsite components using RFID technology at the Leadenhall building, a prestigious 47-storey, 736 ft skyscraper in the City of London, said to be the capital’s next big landmark building.

Bisrat was one of two Portsmouth students shortlisted for the construction engineering and design award in the annual Undergraduate of the Year competition, run by Target Jobs. A third Portsmouth student was shortlisted for the Business and Finance category.

The competition attracts thousands of entries and offers 12 awards, each sponsored by a different leading company.

Although Bisrat didn’t win the construction award, his understanding of RFID, learned in his spare time, was not only up to date but also in high demand.

Bisrat said: “I was already on placement with another firm at the time and I didn’t want to let them down, but I also didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. I talked to my manager and he said I would be crazy to ignore such a good offer, so I started work at the Leadenhall building the following week.

“I was pretty mesmerised at the ceremony to be honest. I seem to be Laing O’Rourke’s youngest member of staff on this project and I’m doing things other interns don’t usually get the chance to do.”

RFID tracks goods from manufacturing through to installation, helping drive down costs and improve forecasts of building project timelines.

Bisrat said: “I started reading about it in my spare time. It sounded interesting, I understood it and so I started researching it to find out more.

“I stumbled across the competition online and thought I’d try my luck. I filled out the application and to my surprise, my knowledge about this technology was something that Laing O’Rourke were investing in and saw as the future.

“More than 5,000 people entered the awards, so to get the final 120 was pretty amazing.

“My motto is ‘If you don’t try, you don’t get’ and putting in the hours is noticeable.”

Two other Portsmouth students reached the final ten. Simon Taylor was shortlisted in the Construction Engineering and Design category, and Vlad Stoian was shortlisted in the Business and Finance Student of the Year category, sponsored by Morgan Stanley. Prizes were awarded by Michael Portillo in a ceremony at Canary Wharf.

Bisrat has since helped set up summer and year-long internships for Portsmouth students with his original placement company, a surveying firm. When he returns to Portsmouth for his fourth and final year of study he is also planning on setting up workshops to teach Building Information Modelling, a new construction process in which projects are built virtually, enabling users to ‘see into the future’ and resolve potential problems before they occur, providing significant cost benefits to industry.


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