• 2 September 2019

Taking the leap into a new career

Connor is a second-year apprentice at our Redhill office and is currently studying civil engineering at South Thames College. Originally dreaming of becoming an accountant, he tells us the importance of scoping-out a future career and how his existing skills made him the perfect candidate to become an engineer.

Growing up, I was always interested in the more ‘theoretical’ subjects of maths and sciences in school and admired the work my Grandad did as a guided weapons engineer for EMI. At this time, I hadn’t considered becoming a civil engineer and, throughout my youth, I had always wanted to be an accountant. Unfortunately, this dream came to an end after I went through a week of work experience at an accounting firm and realised I really didn’t enjoy it.

I hadn’t considered engineering until right before the end of my college years when a friend suggested looking at apprenticeships in civils. At first it didn’t look appealing to me, but as I read up more and more on it, I found it fascinating that a Civil Engineer’s input is fundamental to the design of any infrastructure or building all over the world. In my eyes, buildings wouldn’t work without them.

With only a BTEC Level 2 in Engineering, I was very nervous going for my interview at Waterman as I thought the other candidates would be much more qualified than me, as I knew there was a test at the end. Turns out, it went really well, and the exam wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be, which boosted my confidence about getting the vacancy.

I was warmly welcomed into the highways team in Redhill in September 2017. Consisting of about 15 engineers, everyone in the office was keen to help me with any questions I had regarding engineering. I had initially been worried when nobody in the office had done an apprenticeship like mine, thinking they wouldn’t understand or be able to help with my Apprentice Learning Log, NVQ Reports etc. However, I later found out there are other apprentices around the UK within Waterman that meet for an Apprentice Network Meeting four to five times a year. I find these meetings very helpful as I can get advice on how apprentices are supported and what kinds of work everyone is doing in their different offices.

The thing that I appreciate the most about my apprenticeship is the amount of information and work-based skills I have learnt. As I’m working whilst studying, I have found there is always someone in the office who can help me with my college work, referring me back to real-life project examples. College is challenging, but I like a challenge, so it’s interesting to gain the knowledge and apply it to my day-to-day tasks.

Since starting my apprenticeship, I have had so many exciting jobs to work on, which is not what I expected. When I was first appointed to do highway works in the office, I thought I was going to be designing road surfaces, however, as my apprentice has progressed I have discovered so many different elements to highway engineering.

The most rewarding factor of my job is that I know that my work will make people’s lives easier. It may not be life-saving, but I know that designing cycle routes around London Boroughs is allowing cyclists to travel more safely. I also find it gratifying to go to school career fairs to speak to students who don’t know what kind of career path to take. It’s great to find out that some of them have followed my advice and are interested in civil engineering, even meeting a few of them when they join us for work experience.

Another part of my job that I enjoy is learning about project management as it gives me something to strive for. Learning about Waterman’s systems and project administration has led to me being trusted with most project plans and email filling. I have also been given the opportunity to do a small amount of structural engineering for the civils team, meaning I get to assist with bridge inspections out on site.

I believe that making the decision of becoming a civil engineer apprentice was the best decision I’ve made so far. I want to go on to become a chartered engineer and I know that my apprenticeship is a great foundation to head towards it. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to start an apprenticeship at sixteen, instead of seventeen due to the fact that I have had so many amazing opportunities to progress in my career.

Connor Norman-Walker

We are proud of all our apprentices and are delighted to support the government’s ‘Fire It Up’ campaign to help raise awareness of the huge variety of apprenticeships available. If you would like to learn more, you can visit their website by clicking here.

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