Garret Kearns – BSc (Hons) in Construction Project Management and Applied Technology

Name: Garret Kearns

From: Leitrim

School: Magh Ene College, Bundoran

Current Job: Project Planner

Company: Mercury Engineering in Frankfurt, Germany

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choosing this degree.

I have always had a keen interest in construction, from studying woodwork in the Junior Cert and Construction Studies in Leaving cert. I’ve always found the process behind the construction of buildings interesting and always wanted to be involved in it somehow. I knew this degree would give me the best base to go into the world of construction and project management.

What specifically about the degree did you particularly enjoy?

I enjoyed learning about the different management techniques like LEAN construction and completing small projects in class with a strict time schedule. The lecturers were all very knowledgeable in their specific fields and made the learning experience very enjoyable. They were always there to point me in the right direction and help me discover possible career paths.

What is the best thing about the degree that you think new applicants should know?

I think they need to know that this degree will give them valuable skills that can be easily transferred into the working world. It gives you more than just construction management skills. It gives you a very insightful overview of project management as a whole and gives you vital management skills, IT skills and presenting skills. Leaving ATU Sligo and having a degree that is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) was also a huge boost. It is a great addition to have on any CV when looking for a career in construction.

Any favourite modules during your time studying?

I really enjoyed LEAN Principles. This module was all about working efficiently and productively. I remember one day the whole class had to build a LEGO house in under 15 minutes, with each individual having a specific role and a specific time to do it. It took us a few goes but we all learnt the benefits of proper planning and each person having a role but also knowing each other’s roles. Bringing the practical side into it really helped and made it enjoyable.

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that have influenced your career?

I learnt that having a plan is key to any successful project. Working as a Project Planner now, the skills I learnt from building that LEGO house have stayed with me into this role. Completing my dissertation has hugely helped my report writing skills and my IT skills which are now very important in the construction world.

Can you share some detail of your career path or further studies to date

After I finished my final exams, I applied for a few graduate programs based in Ireland. A few of my friends currently work for Mercury Engineering and they advised me to apply for their grad programme speaking very highly of it. When I got the offer form Mercury to move over to Frankfurt and take up a role as a Project Planner on a Data center program, I couldn’t refuse. I was able to stay in Ireland for the summer and continue working in my job. I started the graduate programme in the first week of September 2022. Since completing my Level 8, I have been looking into completing a master’s in construction, and with Mercury’s backing I hope to start this next year.

What does your current role involve?

My current role as a Project Planner involves updating the project schedule weekly. This is after I reach out to the different people involved in the project. This entails creating a report, sending it, and asking for any increase in jobs completed or progress on site. I then import the report into P6 which is a planning software used in this company.

Weekly reports need to be completed on how the overall project is progressing and presented to the team and senior Project Managers. Daily morning whiteboards talks mean I have to head up a meeting that involves updates on the plan for that day on site, who is on site and make sure that everyone is aware of the health and safety regulations.

If anyone new comes on site they have to be inducted by having a face to face meeting and going through H&S requirements and checking they have the proper training and PPE. Each week I must complete a site walk with a camera placed on my helmet to show progress on the site. This allows those who are not based on site to see the weekly progress. Another role is to take the minutes of meetings. This is a very important task and being able to type quickly has moved with me from taking down notes in lectures during my time in ATU Sligo.

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field?

The lectures in the degree had all of the class prepared for the working world. Over the 4 years of study, the knowledge and advice you will gain will stand to you so much. Construction Is huge and there as so many different careers you can have. Its not a case that you have to stick to the one role. My advice would be to get stuck into a career as quick as possible. The first few weeks might be slow but just go out and go on site walks, sit in as many meetings as possible and ask as many questions as possible. No question is stupid and if the people around you see that you want to learn, they will be happy to teach.

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?

I liked the fact that almost everyone knew everyone. Walking to the canteen you would always see someone that you knew from secondary school or from football or whatever. It was a great way to keep in contact with people outside of your normal friend group. The lectures in ATU were great too. They would always spend that few minutes extra to explain something that you were unsure of and were always very accommodating if you had to miss a class or needed a few extra days for an assignment. Having lecturers that also had experience in what they were teaching was also a huge benefit to my learning through the degree.

What advice would you give a first-year student starting in ATU Sligo?

Go for it! With ATU Sligo you get out what you put in. Don’t be afraid to go to lectures by yourself if none of your friend group are going. That’s the ideal situation to meet new friends and broaden your friend group.

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