Education and qualifications:
Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, Trades Union Congress (TUC)
NVQ Level 4 Health Safety and Environmental Management in Extractive Industries, Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC)
HNC Civil Engineering, Telford College
NVQ Level 3 Business Administration, Military Training
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 is dealing with invoices for payment and writing contracts, with an annual budget for my area of £1.6 million. This covers 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 new roads, bridges and 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 statutory notices issued by Scottish Forestry to get the infected larch felled. 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).
Having already registered as an Engineering Technician (EngTech), I decided that prior to retirement I should try and obtain the professional status of Incorporated Engineer (IEng). I initially had a meeting and chat with a senior engineer about what it would involve and he said that he was more than confident that with my present knowledge and experience I would not have a problem in achieving this and offered to mentor me. I downloaded the Engineering Council’s UK-SPEC booklet and start to prepare the information required which took a few months to put together. On the day of my professional review I was very nervous. Due to Covid-19 the meeting was held online, and the interview was not as bad as I was expecting - there were lots of interesting questions about my career, education, knowledge and experience. When I received my letter informing me I had been admitted as an IEng, I was pleased to inform my mentor and of course Dr Geoff Freedman who initially started me in my engineering career.
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 experience and competence to register.
What are your future career ambitions?
Now that I have achieved my registration as an IEng, I will continue to gain further knowledge and experience on the job for the short time I have left prior to retirement.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
For the past 25 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. I also try to assist new engineers by passing on my knowledge and experience. I have recently been asked if I would consider becoming a mentor for Forestry and Land Scotland to pass on my knowledge and experience to new starters before I retire.
I play the bagpipes which takes up a lot of my time during the competition season. Due to Covid we have not been competing as a band since March 2019, however we were back out on 21 May at the British Championships and achieved a 5th placing which was an excellent result for us. I have also been President of St Ronan’s Piping Society for the past 22 years. They organise a local Pipe Band Championships each year here in my hometown of Innerleithen, which takes place on the first Saturday of June each year, and this involves gaining local authority permissions and sponsors etc. It is also another great networking opportunity.