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Engineering Technicians (EngTech)

Bruce Hamilton EngTech MIAgrE MIQ MICE

Published: 21/10/2020

Name and post-nominals:  
Bruce Hamilton EngTech MIAgrE MIQ MICE

Education and qualifications:
Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
NVQ Level 4 Health Safety and Environmental Management in Extractive Industries
HNC Civil Engineering
NVQ Level 3 Business Administration

Job title: 
Civil Engineer

Forestry and Land Scotland

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
After leaving the army, I started work with the Forestry Commission working as an Administration Officer in various departments, finally ending up at Peebles with Forestry Civil Engineering and continuing to carry out admin duties. One evening while out at dinner I was approached by senior management to see if I would consider becoming a civil engineer. My initial thoughts were no, but as the evening rolled on, I was finally talked into going to college on day-release for four years to obtain my HNC in civil engineering. It is thanks to my senior management  ̶  Dr Geoff Freedman, Past President of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE), Iain Hampson and David Killer  ̶  that I am where I am today.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am a Civil Engineer within Forestry and Land Scotland, responsible for the design and maintenance of over 600km of forest road, 83 bridges and 112 quarries and borrow pits. I am also accountable for the planning, implementation and control of civil engineering work in accordance with budgets, health, safety and environmental standards, technical specifications and statutory regulations. This role also includes the preparation, evaluation and issue of contracts.

Can you describe a typical working day?

A typical day can vary so much within my post due to issues in the forest, such as harvesting damage. This happens when forwarders and harvesters working on steep sided slopes have tracks fitted which dig into the road, causing harm to the road surfaces, resulting in the haulage lorries having to stop using the road. We also have situations with lorries and plant hitting bridges. When an accident happens, I need to immediately inspect the damage, and depending on the result of the inspection, decide whether or not to allow haulage to continue.

Another aspect of the role includes dealing with invoices for payment and writing contracts, with an annual budget for the area of £1.6 million, for new roads, bridges, blasting and crushing and maintenance, allowing me to complete my annual programme of works. My role also involves inspecting the bridges, quarries and roads, and preparing tenders for remedial works ensuring they remain suitable for timber haulage.

Sometimes I respond to phone calls from neighbours and the public, including communicating regularly with the Land Agent of Joint User roads. The role is not split 50/50 across office and field, due to me having to be reactive as well as proactive.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
At present the Forestry and Land Scotland are dealing with infected sites due to Phytophthora Ramorum (Larch Disease) so I am required to plan, set out and construct new roads to Class A standard, suitable for use not only by forestry but in time by the public for recreational use (ie walking, horse riding and at times rallying). But the initial construction is to allow us to comply with the statuary Forestry Commission movement licences being issued. At present we have 16 infected areas within my remit.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
The whole job gives me so many challenges and therefore I have gained a great deal of experience. Having to deal with the challenges means that I am helping the rest of the organisation meet its objectives.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I was involved with the design of the Salcey Tree Top Way, a 300-metre-long wooden walkway above the trees at Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire which opened in 2005, drawing crowds of visitors. It won the British Construction Industry Environmental Award in 2006. The walkway is at present closed due to lack of funding for repairs but has been surveyed and work will be underway soon to get it reopened to the public. Future funding is being made available to ensure that this does not happen again.

In 2015 I was awarded the IAgrE Branch Meritorious Award for my contributions as Secretary of the Forestry Engineering Group, a specialist group within IAgrE.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
It was a requirement for the job within Civil Engineering that I be professionally registered and that also led to my involvement with Forestry Engineering Group (FEG).

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Registration has given me recognition within and outside of Forestry and Land Scotland. One of the great benefits from being a registered professional is the network of contacts I have gained, which have also assisted me in obtaining further knowledge and experience to benefit myself and the organisation. 

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My employer trusts my decisions, knowing I am a member of various professional organisations. This also allows me to keep up to date with the regular changes to legislation and health and safety regulations, as well as gaining further knowledge which allows me to keep my continuing professional development (CPD) current. Some of the professional institutions use CPD apps now, which make life a lot easier. You can input what you have done, what you have learnt and how much time you are claiming.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration? Becoming a registered professional not only gives you as an individual the benefits and recognition but also the organisation you work for - it shows that they are professional by having registered members. The knowledge database out there is one you would struggle to get without being a registered professional and Google is not always correct! I have found being a registered professional really beneficial and would recommend anyone with the required qualifications to register.

What are your future career ambitions?
I am aiming to achieve registration as IEng over the next few months, to help me gain a further milestone.

Do you participate in any other career-related activities, such as mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
For the past 20 years I have been secretary of the FEG, which organises annual symposiums to keep interested parties up to date with engineering matters within the forest environment.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering?
I play the bagpipes which takes up a lot of my time during the competition season. We had the honour of becoming European Champions, Grade 4A, and came third at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2018 and won prizes at various other competitions, which has led to promotion of the band. You may wonder how this relates to engineering, but when you take into consideration the forming of the band, the dropping of players who are not quite up to it, writing and arranging music to ensure it flows and to be able to play together, there are a surprising number of engineering first principles involved in achieving this.  Due to Covid-19 we have as a band been unable to play together since March and it is not looking very promising for competitions next year either.