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The 2016 Flagstaff Consulting Group Medal - Flagstaff giving its experience back to Engineering students

By Jonathan Smith
Flagstaff Medal

Phil Sumner, Ric Barton and 2016 Flagstaff Consulting Group Medal winner Katie Rice

Katie Rice a final year Civil Engineering student and Undergraduate Engineer with Aecom in Brisbane has been awarded the 2016 Flagstaff Consulting Group Medal as Dux of the Civil Engineering Estimating subject in the Engineering Degree at QUT. The medal was presented to Katie by Flagstaff’s Brisbane Founding Principals Ric Barton and Phil Sumner, at a lunch in the Deco room at Blackbird Restaurant in Brisbane on Sunday the 7th May.

Flagstaff Principal Jonathan Smith, the current lecturer, explains why this medal encapsulates Flagstaff.

One is asked to join Flagstaff, one does not ask to join Flagstaff. As one of the younger brigade of Flagstaff Principals, I can attest that when those who are clearly at the apex of the engineering and construction industry in this state and indeed the country tap you on the shoulder and say “we would like to have a chat”, it’s a bit of thrill that they might consider the knowledge I have gained over; at that stage; 30 years in the engineering and construction industries, was at level where they might ask the question. These are people who have run Australia’s largest construction companies, John Holland, AbiGroup (now Lend Lease) and Leightons (now CPB). For me, that occurred in 2006 at the awards dinner of the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators at its national conference at Palm Cove in North Queensland.

Soon thereafter it became very clear that there is much more behind the question than at first it might appear. Behind it there is a deep and abiding interest in the engineering and construction industry, how it operates now, how it will operate in the future and importantly what footprints we might leave in the sand.

Over the last 10 years I and others have had many discussions with our founding Brisbane Principals Ian Harrington, Ric Barton and Phil Sumner about ethical behaviour in construction. Flagstaff prides itself in bringing; what we think; is an unmatched well of experience in contracting, which can inform Project Owners not only of what particular words said by a contractor might mean, but also what those words say about the contractor. Behind that is a deep belief that whilst construction has had its share of troubling individuals, there is a far greater pool of those who are involved in this industry because they are simply fascinated by what human beings can do when they put their minds to it. They want to make their own positive contribution to the built environment. That can only continue whilst owners are willing to fund those endeavours.

Part of that eye on the future is that Flagstaff recognises it has a responsibility to pass on its knowledge in the education of the next generation who will undertake this work.
Soon after I joined Flagstaff Ian Harrington started taking the Estimating in Engineering Construction subject at the Queensland University of Technology, a tradition continued by Ben White, Jonathan Smith, Phil Sumner, John Abraham and Allan Reid. This is the first subject where students are asked to add the variable ‘Human Being’ and all of its vices to their otherwise inviolable engineering and scientific formulae. No one lecturer takes all lectures or takes all workshops and tutorials. It is a heavily experience based course where Flagstaff provides lecturers for each element of the it, who are practising experts in their field.

Students are given selection criteria, tender documents, plans, specifications, a proposed contract document, quotes from suppliers, equipment lists, notices to tenderers and a myriad of practical considerations such as the work being on an island, or in an environmentally sensitive area to consider and then are asked to prepare a commercial tender as though they were a contractor.

Flagstaff Medal

The 2016 Flagstaff Medal

For a student to not only understand how to construct the project, but to bring hard nosed practical risk assessments and sensible commercial considerations of how a contracting business works to their submission, and then finish at the apex of anywhere between 80 and 120 other students is not only a mark of their application to the task, but Flagstaff says a mark of their future employability.

As that person, we congratulate the winner of the 2016 Flagstaff Medal for Engineering Estimating Katie Rice. Well done Katie.

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