As managing director and CEO of MACA Limited, Chris Tuckwell is helping to provide Curtin engineering students with practical experience to ease their transition to the workforce.
For as long as he can remember, Chris Tuckwell was interested in construction and engineering, eventually deciding to undertake a Bachelor of Engineering (Construction Engineering) at WAIT, Curtin’s predecessor institution, from 1980 to 1983.
It was here that he learnt the importance of how to solve complex engineering problems – skills that remain with him even now.
“I really enjoyed the four years studying my degree. It prepared me to be able to think out of the box and look for alternative solutions to problems,” he says.
After finishing his construction degree, Tuckwell fell into mining, holding managerial positions in companies, including Henry Walker Eltin Group Ltd, Ausdrill and African Mining Services, in both onshore and offshore locations.
His most recent appointment in August 2014 was as CEO and managing director of MACA Limited (formerly Mining & Civil Australia Pty) – an ASX-listed company working eight mine sites with over 1,400 employees across its operations in Australia and Brazil. As Tuckwell explains, running such a dynamic business is no easy feat.
“Like many mining companies, the challenges change all the time,” he says.
“We have to make decisions on how to best carry out work on each site and where money should be spent. It’s been very rewarding to see MACA grow to the size and respect it has in the industry, while making good profits and having a really dedicated workforce.”
MACA provides cadetship programs where first, second and third-year civil and mining engineering students work at the company over the semester breaks, enabling them to gain practical experience and develop skills. MACA management and graduates from the Curtin WA School of Mines design the programs, with each student being supervised by an experienced mentor (some of whom have completed the program themselves).
Prior to the completion of their cadetship, students in their fourth year develop a project for their final thesis that in most cases aligns with their work at MACA. Tuckwell, along with MACA’s senior engineers, have been known to commute to their location to support their final presentation.
“Since 2006, we have taken on students from the Curtin WA School of Mines, and in the last few years have also recently taken on students from the civil and mechanical engineering disciplines. There have been 14 students in total, and all are still with the company today,” Tuckwell says.
By working through their cadetship, students gain the required technical experience and time served to sit for examinations and tests such as the Quarry Manager’s Certificate of Competency.
“The idea is that they can go to one of our sites and commence working rather than starting from scratch because they already know how MACA works,” Tuckwell says.
“Two of the graduates who took part in this program now run projects in their own right in Brazil for MACA. The remainder have, or will, run projects in Western Australia.”
Testimonial about MACA’s cadetship programs
“At MACA, you get hands-on experience very early on, and you learn to think outside the box, which is vital to becoming a good engineer. You gain experience as a labourer, a supervisor and eventually a project manager while being exposed to the commercial side of the business at the same time. Because you start gaining experience throughout your degree, you end up wiping time off your graduate program, essentially fast-tracking your development.
“Most of the team at MACA are old hands, but still remain open minded and are always looking to innovate. I cannot say enough good things about the culture at MACA: while hard work goes a long way, we keep true to our values and support the community in many areas. If you have a ‘can-do attitude’, then MACA is definitely the place for you!”
– Mining engineer Ben Stevenson, Curtin WA School of Mines (2007-10).
MACA’s cadetship programs will be advertised in July and August.
Name: Chris Tuckwell
Studied: Bachelor of Engineering (Construction Engineering)
Related course: Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Construction Engineering)