Education and Qualifications:
BSc Civil Engineering, Leeds Beckett University
HNC/HND Civil Engineering, Leeds College of Building
BTEC L3 Diploma Civil Engineering, Leeds College of Building
Job title: Geotechnical Engineer
Employer: Powerbetter Developments Limited
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I have always had an interest in how things work. During my last two years in high school, (years 10 and 11) I attended college on day release to study a BTEC First Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment. This introduced me to the industry and helped me decide what I wanted to do after I left school. I found that Civil Engineering appealed to me the most, so I enrolled at college to study a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Civil Engineering rather than traditional A-Levels.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I joined Powerbetter Developments Limited as a Geotechnical Engineer at the end of January 2023 after more than nine years at my previous employer, Sweco UK. Powerbetter are a specialist ground improvement contractor, and we carry out soil stabilisation using lime and/or cement and improvement via various compaction methods.
I am responsible for monitoring the site testing that is completed to confirm that our works are meeting the specification criteria. I provide the clients with regular updates on how the works are progressing and at the end of a project I prepare and issue a report to explain and summarise the results. As part of this role, I develop the testing schedules and liaise with the site teams and laboratories to ensure an adequate number of tests are completed and to help rectify any issues such as non-conforming results.
I am involved with projects from an early stage, completing technical appraisals of the ground conditions from available information, Ground Investigation Reports etc, to aid in the quantification of material volumes and identify any potential issues. This includes soft spots that won’t respond to a single improvement technique and therefore need to be priced for a multi-stage approach.
Can you describe a typical working day?
For existing projects, a typical day involves me reviewing testing certificates from the laboratory and plotting these in Excel and AutoCAD to check the specification criteria and that the required number of tests are being achieved. If any issues are encountered, I liaise with the relevant people to rectify these. If we are nearing the end of a project I will be writing a report to issue to the client summarising the performance of the works and explaining any issues that arose.
For potential tenders and new projects, I perform a data review and use this information to assess the suitability for stabilisation/compaction techniques. This involves me generating a ground model of the geological conditions and comparing laboratory analysis results to industry specifications and guidance. I feed this back to the management team to enable them to price the works accordingly.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
As the type of work we do is specialist I have a lot to learn. I previously worked for a consultancy so the change to working for a contractor has its differences, although I am enjoying it and feel it has been a good move for my career. While soil stabilisation has been around for several decades, it is still rather an unknown and underused technique in the UK, so there can be an initial reluctance from some clients to use it until they realise its benefits and effectiveness.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I enjoy being involved with projects from the start through to the end, getting involved with all aspects. I also have the benefit of getting out of the office to attend a site when needed, including Ireland where around 50% of our projects are based.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I obtained my degree via a ‘Degree Apprenticeship’ and I was one of the first three people in the UK to pass my End Point Assessment (EPA) and achieve Incorporated Engineer (IEng) recognition through this route.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I have always been keen to demonstrate my professional competence, first by obtaining Engineering Technician (EngTech) accreditation. I knew the Degree Apprenticeship required an EPA to formally complete it, but this didn’t put me off, instead it motivated me to work hard and pass it as soon as possible. My ultimate career goal is to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng).
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Professional registration has benefited me by showing colleagues and clients that I have the skills and competence expected of someone in my role. It has also widened my professional social media network and led to me being approached for the role I am currently in.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My employer benefits as it shows clients that their employees are competent in their roles and able to perform their jobs to the level expected. It also demonstrates they are passionate about continuing professional development (CPD).
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Start the process as early as you can. You learn a massive amount in your early career and recording this goes a long way in demonstrating that you have met the lower-level attributes required. Seeing the boxes turn green on initial professional development (IPD) online is satisfying as it shows you are progressing to the end goal of achieving professional recognition. It helps you form good habits in recording CPD and will avoid the typical problem of having to trawl back through years of information trying to remember what you did. You can also identify gaps at an early stage and put things in place to rectify them.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
In five years’ time I see myself as a specialist in ground improvement techniques. By this time, I will be looking to obtain Chartered Engineer (CEng) recognition via the Technical Report Route.
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?
I represented my previous employer at the Leeds Apprenticeship Fair several times. I am keen to promote the apprenticeship route to as many young people as possible as I see the benefits over a more traditional route into the industry. Thankfully with Degree Apprenticeships now available, it is becoming a popular choice.