We continue our blog series, where we’re hearing from each of our six current Year In Industry students. Like every year, we welcome a cohort to get hands on experience at Winvic for the 12-month period between their second and third years at university. We’ve heard from Elliot, Abbie, Ed and Jonathan so far and today it’s Tim’s turn, who explains how having good spatial awareness and an interest in architecture led him to where he is today.
“If you’d have said to me five or six years ago that I’d be where I am today, I definitely would have laughed and said no way! I didn’t feel like I had done very well in my GCSEs, getting mainly Cs, and I had no plans to go to university. Here I am today writing this from a site cabin at the Prologis Logistics Operations Centre (LOC) project in Solihull, now a trainee site engineer and having completed two years of a Construction Management degree at Nottingham Trent University. I’ve just finished my 6-month presentation, which was all about what I’ve been doing, what I’ve learned and what knowledge I hope to gain in the next 6 months, so it’s been interesting to reflect on my achievements. It went well and I got good feedback about my efforts from people like Simon Hunt the Managing Director, Rob Bull, a Construction Director and senior engineers like Neil Orme and Charlie Caldicott, who is also my mentor. I feel lucky that I’m surrounded by so many professionals who are willing to help and are so friendly.
“When I arrived on site, I found the steel frame and the roof of the LOC already complete, and about 60 per cent of the cladding installed. The internal floor work was just starting and this was my first job, to use the pour sequence drawings, check that the level of the stone layer was within tolerance, complete the paperwork relating to the package and then check the finish. In my first two weeks I got to shadow and do this work alongside Hollie and George who were part of last year’s cohort, and were both trainee engineers too. I also shadowed various engineers who would give me tasks to complete, for example, I remember having to measure all the fire doors and check they were all straight. When I showed Charlie, he immediately said there was no way that some of the figures could be right. This really proved how experience is everything – he knew I was out with a few measurements, just from a glance and I learned to always measure twice! But this is what it’s all about, the team members want to push us trainees to learn and for us to find solutions, while at the same time being supportive and there to help. I’m surprised just how much I’ve done and the amount of responsibility I’ve been given but there’s always someone aware of what you’re doing. They’ll let you make the mistake but step in at the right time to ask you to have another think about the task. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned in my third year, and beyond that I want to keep gaining knowledge in a hands-on way, as I feel it’s the best way to learn this industry.
“I helped with the construction of the multi-storey car park from the start, floating bolts for the foundations and examining the positioning of the rebar before each concrete pour. The yard has been a significant package to work on too and this has been done much later in the programme than usual. There is a complex drainage design on a very tight plot so this has impacted the progress and timing of the yard. In setting out the yard slabs I use my total station to mark lines of pins, knock them into the ground and then mark each one with tape to denote where the concrete pour level should be. I check the work again after the subcontractor has laid the shutters check the line, and add any joints.
“I got to see a number of other projects at the very beginning of my placement, including ICON in Manchester where I spent two days with another previous YII student, Matt, who now works at Winvic full time. I also spent a week with Dave Powell, a Health and Safety Manager, where I visited schemes like the Civils and Infrastructure works at Fairham – here I went on a site walk with the Environment Agency, which was very interesting. I also saw Mercia Park’s impressive earthworks programme starting and the block of 384 apartments at Bath Lane in Leicester. I remember thinking it was very useful for Dave and site teams to point out the obvious to me, because there were so many things I’d just never seen before from in the classroom. I really enjoyed it and found it useful but in some ways it’s a bit of a blur already!
“So, while I didn’t think I’d be at this point in my life, I think I’ve got here in a really positive way and found the right path. I was kind of good at science, was interested in architecture and have always had good spatial awareness so I was directed towards engineering by careers at my school. The BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma that I studied was a rounded, non-specialised course, so I learned about electrical, mechanical, surveying and construction amongst other things, and construction was one module I really enjoyed. Then, like Elliot who has already written his blog and mentions it there, I started a Civil Engineering degree – we were actually on the same course – but switched to Construction Management after a year. I found that the civils degree was more about the design of the materials involved. The Construction Management course covers civils elements but, for example, it’s not necessarily about knowing what sections are used in the steel frame design, it’s more about how to sequence and erect the steel frame. The modules that cover areas such as law, quantity surveying, health and safety and contracts have been interesting too, balancing out the main portfolio projects we have had to complete.
“I deliberately picked a sandwich course because I knew I wanted to get outside and see everything in practice, and I’m very glad I made this decision, like Elliot. It’s funny because our journeys have been side by side and in a couple of weeks when this project is handed over, I’ll be moving on to the same site as him. It was a bit awkward when we both knew we had interviews with Winvic but I guess we both impressed and we’re both enjoying our experiences here. What has perhaps been the most surprising thing to me is the number of people I’ve spoken to who have said they started out as engineers just like me, like Ben Sherman who is a Construction Director. It’s exciting to know there is flexibility to progress my career in all sorts of directions if I continue to work hard, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”