Getting to know Billy Alves, a Regional YWP
Regional AWA members have always been important to delivering water and sewage services across the country. This Spotlight article is part of a series highlighting the experiences and contributions our regional members make to their industry and communities. In this interview we learn about Billy Alves, Water and Sewer Engineer at Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I’m originally from around the Batemans Bay area and grew up in the Eurobodalla Shire, going to primary and high school here. I always enjoyed maths and science when I went to school, and figured I’d try engineering. I’ve been here at Council since 2013, completing a cadetship through Council since 2017. I’ve worked full time and studied part time through the University of Southern Queensland. I was able to do my degree mostly through remote learning, with about 6 weeks in total spent on campus.
My cadetship has allowed me to work in a variety of areas within Council; I’ve had experience working in construction, water and sewer treatment operations, project management and site surveillance. In my current role, I now manage water and sewer capital works projects including new water and sewer supply schemes. I’m often involved from the early stage of design, right up to the construction and commissioning of the project.
What brought you to work at Eurobodalla Shire Council?
It’s a bit of a long story actually. When I finished my HSC I moved to Canberra to study at ANU. I got through one semester, but found that I didn’t enjoy full time study and couldn’t really commit. So I decided to move back home to Eurobodalla and was lucky to get a traineeship with the Council here working in civil design (as a draftsman). The traineeship went for about 4 years, and when it was nearly over the cadetship came up in water and sewer. So I took it and haven’t looked back.
When I was at school I guess I had ambitions to move away from here, but my family and girlfriend are from here so naturally I got drawn back home. Once I wrapped up full time study at university, I moved back home and decided to try my luck working for the Council in engineering. Now that I’m back I’m happy here and don’t really have plans to move away again.
What is the best thing about working in a regional area?
Being a Eurobodalla local, I take great pride in the work I do in my role at Council. The people benefitting are the local community, who include my friends and family. Its very rewarding being able to work on and complete these projects and see the finished product when driving around town. It keeps me keen to continue the work I’m doing and provide the key infrastructure the community needs.
Working in a regional area also means I can work on a wide variety of projects. I’ve been involved with roundabout and road design, as well as water and sewer design. I’ve also seen, and worked on, projects at various stages, from the initial concept and initial design, all the way to the construction of the infrastructure and its commissioning.
I also enjoy the work life balance out here, Council is flexible in its working conditions and I find you can participate in many community activities here and keep in touch with long time friends. The best part of working here though is that people come here from all around for their holidays; I live here so it feels like I’m on holidays 12 months of the year!
What is the most difficult thing about working in a regional area?
Unfortunately there aren’t many opportunities in regional areas. And the opportunities that are available are often limited. When I was at high school I’d never heard about the traineeships and apprenticeships available out here, so the main option available for me was to move to the larger towns or cities and study there. Council nowadays has more of these opportunities available, as do other regional areas, which is great for attracting and retaining the younger generation keen to stick around.
Another issue with being a regional area, which is a little more unique to places like Batemans Bay, is that we need to build our infrastructure for the peak holiday periods which only occur for a few months of the year. We then need to strike the balance between the smaller baseline population that live here and use the infrastructure year round, and the holiday crowds that can put additional strain on the services provided by Council. It also means we need to make do with the smaller rates base to accommodate the seasonal holiday crowds too.
What moment/achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
I’ve recently submitted my dissertation for my Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, which was a relief. I’ve been at Council for about 10 years, through my traineeship and cadetship, and just attained a permanent role here at Council as a Water and Sewer Engineer so I’m pretty proud of that. We’ve also got a few projects coming up that I’m involved with, including a water and sewer scheme out here at Nelligen, so I’m keen to get that finished off for the community and provide those key services.
I was also proud of my involvement with the bushfire recovery works during the bushfires a couple of years back. There was a lot of damage to key infrastructure, and I was involved with dealing to the damage to the pressure sewer system out at Rosedale. A lot of the pressure sewer pods were damaged, and Council had to go out straight away to organise their repairs, including engaging and managing contractors who carried out some of the works. This was so that people’s sewer services could resume as quickly as possible.
If you could go back five years, what advice would you give yourself?
Stick with it. Its tough studying part time and working full time, however Council and the people I work with were very supportive of me. They assisted me in my development as an engineer, starting with my cadetship and into my new full-time role.
Regional YWP’s are making a difference in their local areas and the industry as a whole. If you are a YWP living, working, or studying in a regional area and would like to get involved or share your story, please contact your YWP Committee Regional Representatives:
Trevor Sultana | Trevor.Sultana@outlook.com
Brendan Dagg | Brendan.Dagg@ghd.com