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From painting and decorating to engineering - my unusual career path

21 August 2019

Christopher Meredith, Senior Technician at Jacobs, tells us about his winding route to becoming an award-winning civil engineering apprentice after his impressive achievements at this year’s Pearson BTEC awards. 

From painting and decorating to engineering - my unusual career path
Christopher Meredith receiving his BTEC Awards 2019. Image credit: Christopher Meredith

After leaving school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my career, so I undertook different career paths to determine what I wanted to do.

I tried painting and decorating, railway maintenance, and training to become an electrician – none of which I felt suited my strengths.

BTECs appealed to me as they combined education with real skills needed for work. I eventually chose to go to college on the BTEC level 2 course in Civil Engineering and the Built Environment at Leeds College of Building.

I did really well on the BTEC course and achieved merit and distinction grades in most subjects, while enjoying the content delivered on the course. The different modules sparked my interest in engineering and inspired me to pursue an apprenticeship. I loved combining my further education with a career.

I was awarded the Leeds College of Building Student of the Year 2014 and successfully secured a position at Jacobs on a five-year apprenticeship – where I am today.

Through working for Jacobs and gaining the academic knowledge, I’ve completed the BTEC Level 3 in Civil Engineering and the Built Environment, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 3 and level 5, Higher National Certificate (HNC) level 4 and the Higher National Diploma (HND) level 5 course. I'm now progressing onto the degree apprenticeships BSc (Hons) Civil Engineering – Design Engineer course.

Winning awards … and more

I’m incredibly proud to have become the first-ever person to win two awards at the Pearson BTEC 2019 Awards – for Apprentice of the year 19+ and Student of the Year. It shows that my hard work is paying off and getting me and my career to where I want to be through the BTEC apprenticeship educational route.

It’s also an amazing achievement to have passed my Engineering Technician review to become a Technician Member (EngTech MICE) of the ICE.

In addition, I’ve been awarded an ICE QUEST Technician Plus Scholarship this year, which is given to individuals who demonstrate attributes such as good leadership, ambition, determination, and being a good team player.

Winning the BTEC awards and passing the ICE EngTech professional review has been amazing for me and this just shows that you can achieve what you want if you put the time and effort into something. The help and support from the lecturers at Leeds College of Building, my mentors and team at Jacobs, has allowed me to develop and progress my career and achieve these awards.

What I love about civil engineering

My role at Jacobs is to produce designs for various elements of highways infrastructure. I carry out my work alongside experienced engineers, working as a team to successfully deliver projects.

I enjoy my role as it allows me to learn new things, solve problems, determine solutions and provide a service for the public good and help build better communities. It’s great to see my designs being built, it gives me a sense of pride in the work I do.

I feel privileged with the opportunity to contribute to infrastructure development throughout the United Kingdom. The projects I’m involved in improve our way of life by connecting communities around the country. I’m proud of the chance to provide safe and sustainable transport solutions for communities, while boosting the economy.

My STEM Ambassador highlights

I’m also a STEM Ambassador, and my role is to encourage students, apprentices and graduates to become members of ICE, and to promote the civil engineering profession. I'm also a BTEC Ambassador where I promote BTEC courses and raise awareness of the quality these courses offer as an alternative route to A-levels which can get you to both university and where you want to be within your career.

I showcase the type of work they could potentially do, what civil engineering is, and some of the benefits of the profession. This allows students to be fully aware of their options and what to expect if they’re interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering and studying BTECs.

In addition to this, I talk about my own experience and the career path I’ve taken to them and explain how this has affected me and my life and what I’ve managed to achieve.

I also encourage technicians and graduates to progress further to become professionally recognised for their level, both academically and through competency in their job role.

My top tips for success

My advice for people who aren’t sure about their career paths is to just go for it. Choose something you’re interested in and excited about.

Don’t let your current qualifications stop you from future choices. There are options available for all, and with hard work and determination, you can achieve great things (especially in civil engineering!).

Also, when studying and working, there’s an enormous amount of resource and people available to help you on your journey to success.

  • Christopher Meredith, Senior Technician at Jacobs at Jacobs