For more than 20 years, REDARC Electronics has fostered a strong relationship with Flinders University, taking on Work Integrated Learning students, heavily investing in research and development, and employing graduates that have gone on to play an integral role in the growth of the company.
Anthony Kittel (DUniversity ’18), CEO and Managing Director of REDARC believes the partnership is much more than just an avenue to hire – the collaboration pushes both parties to constantly improve and lead the way in progressing engineering here in South Australia.
“We want our business to stay at the forefront of technology, so being able to employ undergraduates is critical,” he says.
“To also have research partnerships, whether that be with masters students or PhD, advancing projects that we’re working on is critical.
“There’s a community benefit of working with Flinders too. We want more students to get involved in STEM and take up engineering as a career, which is why we also sponsor the FAST (Flinders Automotive Solar Team) car – it’s about the whole of the person, not just about the engineering studies, it’s making maths and science something that is fun and practical.”
With over 40 years’ experience in advanced electronic design and manufacturing for defence, automotive, marine, medical, mining, and industrial applications, REDARC buck the trend of manufacturing moving offshore, continuing to create specialist roles in southern Adelaide. You can now find their products being sold in more than 35 countries, with the company employing almost 380 people across numerous burgeoning sites.
“I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the past 15 years of electronic hardware design, which now embeds software, app development, user experience and interface (UX/UI) all as part of the overarching system,” says Anthony.
“We had a very large hardware scene, now hardware and software are basically identical – that’s how fast that side of it’s grown and now we’re equally developing apps and UX/UI capabilities.”
Environmental, social, and corporate governance plays a big part in REDARC’s future planning, particularly around sustainability and hitting carbon net zero targets.
“Not only are we trying to design the best product, but we look at ‘cradle to grave’ and how we can manage that process, supporting society to reduce its demand on CO2 and other critical elements – it’s a rapidly growing area,” says Anthony.
“Then if we look at manufacturing, we use lots of smart systems in terms of trying to reduce costs, and more recently things like cobots and augmented reality to be able to design a production cell in a virtual environment while also having operators involved in that process.”
Developing solutions to high-stakes problems means graduates really need to hit the ground running – something REDARC employee of three years Hayden Archibald (BEng(Robots)(Hons), MEng(Elect) ’21) believes was possible thanks to the practical learning approach to his Flinders degree.
“My 20-week industry placement, which I think is very unique, allowed me to get hands-on here at REDARC and that ultimately turned into employment,” says Hayden.
“It’s quite noticeable to me which students have come from Flinders, they are able to get in there and get things done straight away – we’re using the exact same software here that I was at Uni.”
Similarly, Nusrat Gazi (MEng(Electronics) ’19) was amazed as an international student by the access to technology labs she was offered at Flinders and the opportunity to be creative and learn every day.
“I did my masters at Flinders, so had already used the software I needed for our work, it was straight away transferable and familiar, which was excellent,” says Nusrat.
The teaching program has long appealed to REDARC, with a number of graduates now leaders in the business, including two senior leaders who are both University medallists. There’s even the opportunity to publish papers, with several of REDARC’s engineers having patents to their name thanks to the ability to conduct groundbreaking research on-site, developing world-first technology.
“I think what typifies a Flinders graduate to me is that they’re generally quite humble, authentic individuals and those traits, which are clearly part of the Flinders culture, works really well with us because that’s very much also our approach to company values,” says Anthony.
“They also typically work really well in a team and with the rest of the workforce, which again comes back to those fundamental soft skills.”
VARIED CAREER PATHS
So how does the next generation of engineers best prepare to enter an ever-changing workforce with niche specialisations the industry itself probably hasn’t heard of yet? Anthony and his two graduate employees agree that not pigeon-holing yourself to a particular engineering discipline is important. Realising you now have a set of skills that could lead to a multitude of areas is a valuable mindset to begin your career with.
“Looking at potential jobs was really valuable when selecting what type engineering field I wanted to go into – just because you’re field says you’re an electronics engineer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be just working on PC design,” says Hayden.
“Engineering is more than just maths and science, there’s a lot of creative thinking. Overall, it is quite a well-rounded degree in a continually developing area.”
Beginning an engineering degree is just the starting point, as students are encouraged to get involved in a startup, work in a community role or join a social club at Uni.
“By getting involved in clubs or volunteering, it certainly enables you to develop your communication skills, project management skills and time management,” says Anthony.
“These sorts of things are critical in what we look for in a good engineering graduate, and I guess most importantly, it’s being able to express yourself and show that you’re motivated.
“Finding someone that communicates well, has humility, they’re authentic and you get a good vibe when chatting to them, it’s all important when meeting a great employee – something that I think Flinders graduates do really well.”