“I never thought that managing capital projects or working out how to improve the energy efficiency of engineering equipment would set me up to represent Australia on the world stage.”
From the 17th to the 24th of July, I represented Australia at the Youth G20 Summit (Y20) in Indonesia thanks to a partnership between the UNSW Co-op Office and the Australian NGO Global Voices. The Y20 is the formal youth engagement body of the G20, a multilateral forum that aims to foster economic cooperation amongst the world’s 20 biggest economies.
The purpose of the Summit was to finalise and agree upon the Y20 communiqué, a document outlining over 100 actionable and implementable policy proposals for G20 Leaders across four priority areas: sustainable and liveable planet, digital transformation, diversity and inclusion, and youth employment. Due to my passion and experience working on environmental issues, I was responsible for the sustainable and liveable planet portfolio.
Coming from a background in chemical engineering, I was initially apprehensive about this role as my key remit was to develop policy proposals, engage in multilateral negotiations and advocate on behalf of Australian youth. I quickly realised, however, that many of the skills and experiences I developed through my Co-op placements were highly transferrable to the Y20 – I’ve highlighted the top three below!
1. Project Management
Throughout my Co-op placements, I had significant exposure to managing primarily, technical projects, which included improving the energy efficiency of a heat exchanger or developing a new digital tool for regulatory compliance monitoring. While the projects at the Y20 were different in nature (e.g., developing a suite of policy proposals alongside 19 other delegates), my project management skills and experience turned out to be one of my biggest assets. I called upon these skills often, whether through coordinating and facilitating meetings, plotting out project milestones, or using digital tools to keep our policy proposal delivery on track. This experience really highlighted the transferability of the skills gained through my Co-op placements, and how these can be applied in a diverse range of professional settings.
Strong communication skills were a must-have at the Y20, and once again my Co-op placements set me up for success. Whether it was writing a succinct technical policy proposal to combat complex environmental challenges, communicating (in less than 60 seconds!) why my proposed policy change should be adopted during negotiations, or advocating for the communiqué to policymakers, I constantly found myself calling upon communication skills developing during placements. For example, developing and presenting business cases to senior leadership during my placements taught me the importance of selling the domestic benefits of the communiqué when speaking with Australian policymakers. Conducting a presentation on process safety to a non-technical audience at an industry forum was invaluable when determining how to effectively communicate technical sustainable finance proposals to non-technical audiences. And speaking on a panel with the CEO of one of my placement companies meant that I had the confidence to speak in such a public forum and engage in discussions with high-ranking officials.
3. Technical Knowledge
Finally, the technical knowledge I obtained from my Co-op placements enabled me to make meaningful and unique inputs to policy discussions. I was initially worried about whether my technical background would limit my ability to effectively engage in policy discussions, however, I quickly realised that my experience in industry enabled me to provide valuable insights whilst developing policy proposals to address environmental challenges such as decarbonisation, ESG and the transition to net zero. For example, having experienced first-hand the challenge that decarbonisation poses to industry, I emphasised the importance of increasing fiscal and non-fiscal support to accelerate industrial decarbonisation, an oft-overlooked element of the transition. Similarly, my experience with capital projects and supply chain delays enabled me to advocate for policy implementation deadlines that were reasonable and achievable. This experience highlighted why it’s important to have people from a diverse range of professional backgrounds at the policy-making table.
Overall, I had a truly amazing time at the Y20 Summit and am so grateful to Co-op for this opportunity... I never thought that managing capital projects or working out how to improve the energy efficiency of engineering equipment would set me up to represent Australia on the world stage. While the shift to the world of policy was certainly a challenge and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, I often found myself calling upon the skills and knowledge I had developed through my Co-op placements.
By Isabella Notarpietro