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Insights Cementing my decision to pursue civil engineering

Cementing my decision to pursue Civil Engineering

I'm Luke, and I'm currently doing a MEng Civil Engineering degree. When I was offered a placement with AtkinsRéalis, I was excited and jumped at the offer. I'd wanted to work for a large-scale organization with a wide variety of projects on the go.

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And I was also keen to enhance my knowledge, and skills, gaining experience in the work environment.

Experiences of varying size, scope and scale

I loved being able to work on a wide range of projects. Niche activities included placing storage bollards and designing a breakout box-chamber to monitor sewers, around London. But I also put my hand up to work on more significant projects. As part of a major development next to Waterloo Station (Elizabeth House), I helped organise utility diversions for Southwark Over Station Development (OSD) and Elizabeth House. I also took on a coordination role on a successful winning bid for Thames Water AMP7.

Developing my technical skills

During the pandemic, I leapt at the opportunity to do remote training with the TEKLA Academy. Over the three-week training process, I learned how to produce rebar detailing drawings for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project. As part of my work, AtkinsRéalis exposed me to a wide range of software that further enhanced my technical skills and knowledge.

Rounding my professional development

I've had to share new concepts with technical and non-technical colleagues, which has improved my communication skills. The placement also drastically improved my writing skills, from report writing to a better understanding of engineering. And the most useful lesson I learnt from the work experience is the importance of checking my work thoroughly.

The best day of my placement

I was initially quite nervous about meeting an Ecologist, as well as the head of Site Operations at White Roding Sewage Treatment Works (Thames Water). I'd been to the site once before with a colleague. But this was the first time I had to confidently run through proposals with experienced individuals. The meeting went very well and was a great experience.

The right support when I needed it

The biggest challenge faced while on placement was COVID-19 and the implications that this had. I was renting a place near the Epsom office. But due to the pandemic, I decided to work in lockdown at my parent’s home. So, it was logical to give the flat up in a financial sense. AtkinsRéalis supported me to smoothly transition from the office to home. I've also been told that the team will ensure I can keep the rest of my placement work at home to avoid the office.

Surrounded by people to learn from

During the first month of my placement, I generally had a daily catch up with a supervisor to check work and make sure I knew what I was doing. After my first month, I gradually got more confident with the work, people and the environment, so I didn't need the supervision as much. But whenever I had a question or was stuck on something, everyone was happy to help me out. It was great to have that level of support at any given time.

A taste of different aspects of engineering

I was based in Epsom with the water team and took on several different roles. I got to work on the Thames Water Outfall Monitoring project, creating reports and designs for the sites. I managed utility assets for Southwark OSD and Elizabeth House projects. I had substantial involvement in coordinating a bid, which was challenging but an extremely valuable experience in this side of engineering side. The final role I had was Reinforced Concrete Detailing for Hinkley Point C.

The work I did is keeping my world moving forward

I most enjoyed working on the utility diversion for the two large developments in central London. I was heavily involved, with site visits, detailed drainage plans, and was exposed to all the details on both projects. I'm proud that the work I did on these developments will have a positive impact on London's local area.

Cementing my decisions for my future

The wide range of experience that I have had throughout the placement has confirmed my decision to become a chartered Civil Engineer. My placement will have a meaningful impact on my studies and research for the rest of my time at university.

What AtkinsRéalis helped me discover about myself

I found that I like to throw myself in headfirst. I go straight for any opportunity, be it presentations, drawings, new software. Towards the start of the placement, I even ran the Great South Run for Kidney Research UK and raised over £750. I managed to persuade the practice director to donate £250 on behalf of the company.

My placement was a fantastic experience

I was welcomed and became part of the team from the start. I got to do a wide variety of work, including site visits, bid work, presentation and training. This and the excellent support from all colleagues, has given me great experience to take into my final years of university and beyond.

I discovered how much I'm capable of.

It's okay to have a go – and you might even get it right! Thinking back to the start of my year, I can remember being anxious about trying tasks in case I got something wrong. But being let loose and just pitching in was the best way to build my confidence – even when it felt scary and out of my depth. Ending up being responsible for and setting the direction of my own workload was evidence that I was trusted and capable of making a valuable contribution to the team.