At just 21 years of age, budding Cadet Civil Engineer and student Miranda Swift is already inspiring the next generation of aspiring women engineers.
Growing up regionally in Lithgow, a small town in the Central West region of New South Wales, Miranda Swift was given a taste of the construction industry at the age of 16 and never looked back. Today, she is a Cadet Civil Engineer at Northrop Consulting Engineers (Northrop) while also studying a Bachelor of Engineering degree at Charles Sturt University (CSU).
Joining Northrop in early 2022, Swift is currently the company’s youngest cadet engineer in Newcastle, specialising in civil design and drafting. She’s also a part of the company’s newly established cadetship program.
“I find it to be very rewarding working for a large organisation like Northrop,” says Swift. “I’ve been put in a position where I have the ability to make waves and really push for positive change in the industry.”
The passionate engineer first joined the construction industry as a part-time structural draftsperson for small civil engineering company Calare Civil in Bathurst. Soon after, she began a full-time position as a Cadet Civil Engineer for the company, completing geotechnical testing and analysis, wastewater management and marketing functions, as well as performing structural dilapidation and minor design inspections and reports.
Now balancing work and study, Swift’s days are jam packed, but she’s made the time to take her career one step further and create positive change in the industry. A Student Scholar and Ambassador for Engineers Australia, she has co-created a new Women in Engineering pilot mentoring program called ‘Hustle’ to help attain, recruit and retain females within the sector.
“The initiative was successfully launched in November 2022 with the goal of empowering aspiring and established female engineers from rural and regional backgrounds,” she says.
“My pathway from a small regional town into the construction industry wasn’t an easy one and I faced adversity along the way.
“Through this program, I hope to help support women in construction by bringing opportunities and support back home to the Central West so that more young women can go after a rewarding career in the engineering sector.”
As a result of her hard work, Swift was awarded a Women in Engineering Scholarship in 2020 to study engineering at CSU. In 2022 she was again recognised for her efforts, winning the Generate Property University Scholarship, 2022 Undergraduate Excellence in Construction Award at the National Association of Women in Construction Awards for Excellence.
In her accepting speech on the night, Swift spoke of the hardship and adversity young girls face today. “We act as if every young girl has the opportunities, the funds and the support system to fall in love with this incredible industry, but they don’t,” she said.
“To change the pipeline, we need to grab the hand of the girl who doesn’t have a safe place to call home; the girl who is working three jobs to put herself through high school; the girl that is exhausted with adversity and full of so much doubt; and we need to grab her hand and show her the way – her resiliency would be an asset to the challenging world of construction.”
Receiving $4,000 as part of the scholarship, Swift has generously committed to awarding a portion to a young girl from a low socioeconomic high school so she too, can follow her dreams. Swift says she hopes by doing so, she can lead by example.
Speaking to the crowd on the night of the awards, Swift said: “I stand in front of a room full of people 16-year-old Miranda couldn’t have even dreamt of crossing paths with; a room full of so much influence, so much talent and so much passion.”
“So please allow my actions to make waves within the industry – let me lead by example.
“Each and every one of you have the ability to change at least one young girl’s life, and you have no idea how big your impact in this world can be when you learn to help others.”
The Northrop team has strongly supported Swift’s commitment to fostering opportunities for females in the construction industry, encouraging her to pursue the establishment of ‘Hustle’ and celebrating its recent launch.
“I am really grateful to work alongside some remarkable female leaders at Northrop, who have continued to inspire me,” says Swift. “Northrop has backed the program from the beginning and they’re really supportive of promoting initiatives like it.”
Since the program’s launch, Swift says it’s been getting attention from large organisations wanting to be a part of it. At the moment, there’s 30 participants who will start the program during International Women’s Week this year, with the program on track to roll out nationally in the coming months.
On top of her passion for promoting women in construction, Swift also helps drive sustainability initiatives for the construction industry through her role on Northrop’s Habitat Climate Action committee. In alignment with Northrop’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, she has contributed to internal policy development and sustainable design solutions within the company.
“We’ve been looking at how we can change our design solutions to be more sustainable and carbon free,” adds Swift. “I’d like to get more involved in sustainable engineering and look forward to seizing any opportunities that arise in this space.”
With over five years’ experience in the construction industry under her belt, Swift says her advice for young girls aspiring to join the industry is to “just go for it”.
“The sky is the limit in what you can achieve, who you can meet and where you can go with your career in the construction industry,” she says. “Put your hand up for opportunities and talk to people in the industry.”
“Reach out to people who inspire you and put yourself out there.”
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