Toby Crawley is the winner of the NCE Apprentice of the Year Award 2019. He says ever since he left school he was 'chomping at the bit' to become a civil engineer.
I decided an apprenticeship was the right route for me early on in my secondary school career. I knew that I wanted to be a civil engineer and I was chomping at the bit to get out of school to put my hands to use and practice in the role.
After my GCSEs I started to apply for roles. There was one opening at a well-known international firm local to me each year and competition was high. I applied and interviewed at the same firm three times with the same negative result each time; I was disheartened.
Fortunately, a BTEC Level Three Extended Diploma in Construction & The Built Environment Civil Engineering course was being launched at a college near me in Chippenham. I jumped at the opportunity to move over and take my A-Level equivalents in the subject I was passionate about. In the final few months of this course Siemens Rail Infrastructure visited the college to discuss the potential for an apprentice position at the company and that we would be informed of any more details at a later date. After completing this course at DDD* grade I was invited for interview at Siemens and secured the position.
Siemens are currently sponsoring me to a Level Six standard, my progression is through a HNC and HND in civil engineering with a final year `top-up` to BEng.
The importance of a mentor
My mentor, Alasdair Cook, is a practicing civil engineer that is always happy to answer any queries I have day or night and is keen to push me to my full potential. Alasdair understands my desire to get hands on and deliver projects and so helped secure me a Junior Site Engineer role on a re-signalling project between London and Corby. Here I worked under the Site Engineer, Alec Richards, and quickly picked up on various setting out and survey techniques as well as the paper trail process we had to provide.
I worked with Alec for several months until he felt I was competent enough to carry out the work without his direct supervision. I am trusted with setting out structures and formwork, test cube collection, various types of piling, overhead gantry construction, Form Five (Declaring lines safe for the passage of trains) sign off and redline surveys. Alec is great tutor who is keen to pass on his years of experience in construction generally, not just rail and is always willing to explain things in a way that I understand.
Opening the door
Together Alasdair and Alec have opened the door for me for progression into the emerging BIM team at Siemens. I get to combine lots of different survey methods to carry out point cloud laser scans of assets or sites that are then input into a giant model for design. I am excited by the prospect of being able to work between various projects doing this work but will miss the journey of seeing a project through conception to delivery.
I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone. You gain the same book knowledge as a university student by studying and working but have the massive benefits of; having a job, being able to do the work rather than just knowing the process and networking with different disciplines to make you a rounded engineer rather than single discipline engineer.