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‘I set out to find something to develop my potential’

06 February 2020

When Umar Malik remembered an AECOM business card in his pocket he'd been handed after a presentation, it changed his life.

‘I set out to find something to develop my potential’
Apprentice Umar Malik

During my time at college, I attended a presentation delivered by Vin Bamford, a Technical Director who works for AECOM.

'Take my card'

Once I completed my A-Levels with underwhelming results, I took a year out of education and spent my time working a minimum wage job in a warehouse. During my time there I realised I could very easily fall into the trap of becoming too comfortable and never leaving, so I set out to find something to develop my potential. It was then by chance I came across Vin’s business card in my wallet one night despite it being nearly a year since I met him. I knew that if I played my cards right, I could potentially get my foot through the door at AECOM.

During the presentation, he explained what civil engineering was and why it was a great career choice. At the end of the presentation he handed out business cards urging people to get in touch if they felt like they had a genuine interest in the field. I had a general interest in engineering at this time having spent time in the workshop at high school, but I was not sure on what path I would take following college. I took his card regardless, knowing he may prove to be a valuable contact in the future.

Warehouse blues

Having worked in a warehouse environment for so long and having no solid background in engineering naturally I was low in confidence and began to question what I would even say to Vin. With a lot of thought, I crafted an email explaining my situation current situation, how I was genuinely keen to learn more about civil engineering and if I could potentially visit the office and meet the team. To my surprise I received a response the next day from Vin asking to set up a phone call. After a brief call, I was offered a paid summer internship at AECOM working in Vin’s team. I was elated to discover this and quit my job the next morning.

Dramatic turnaround

Once I started my internship, I did everything I could to demonstrate my interest and ability. Six weeks in, I was offered a full-time position as Degree Apprentice at AECOM. Within 18 months I had received EngTech accreditation with the ICE, last month I came runner up in a national competition for the NCE Apprentice of the Year. This month I will be interviewed to determine if I should receive a Quest Technician Scholarship through the ICE.

My life has made such a dramatic turn in such a short space of time, and all of this came down to showing the initiative and making a phone call when the time was right. This is the message I have taken forward to many schools I have visited to entice other prospective engineers to explore our field. I feel that you are capable of anything if you put your heart and mind into it. We have since recruited four more Degree Apprentices as a direct result of this.

A rewarding career

Civil engineering is a field in which you will meet people from all walks of life and from all over the world. You are actively playing a role in the improvement of your surroundings. I can’t think of many other careers that can offer that. In my opinion, a Degree Apprenticeship is the perfect mix of practical experience and education which will develop you into a highly trained, capable engineer at a greater pace than the normal route of attending University alone. It is what has enabled me to come so far in such a short span of time.

Discover more about civil engineering apprenticeships and how ICE can help you.

Visit our Apprenticeship hub

  • Umar Malik EngTech MICE, Apprentice at AECOM at AECOM