• 3 February 2020

Revelling in the practicality of engineering

Having been influenced by his dad at a young age, Jonathan Asquith was always interested in the practical mathematic solutions of engineering. Here he tells us of the rewarding but steep learning curve he has experienced since starting his apprenticeship with our structures team in Leeds.

I didn’t really have a solid idea about what I wanted to do as a career until midway through Year 11, other than something based in Maths or Science because these, alongside Design / Graphics, were my favourite subjects at school. I studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A-Level but was influenced fairly early on to consider engineering because my dad is a Chartered Structural Engineer at Waterman. As it was his line of work, I was always interested in engineering as a kid, looking over the A0 or A1 drawings he brought home even though I couldn’t understand what was on them. As I grew up, I came to like it even more because it is heavily based around Maths and practicality – things that can be visualised as a problem and solution.

After I finished school, I decided to start an apprenticeship because I didn’t want to have a massive student debt at the end of university, plus I would be able to pick up the practical side of life in the office. Instead of going through the government scheme, I talked to two companies directly – Waterman and JNP Group Consulting Engineers Ltd (where I carried out my work experience), getting interviews with both. My dad gave me some advice on likely questions I’d be asked at each place and I ending up with offers from both companies, although I decided to stay close to home and join Waterman. I started my apprenticeship in mid-August at their office in Leeds and worked part-time until my course started at Leeds Beckett University in September.

Although I had an idea from my dad what to expect this early on in my career, my mentors have helped with any CAD-based problems and taken me through high-end calculations for beam design, helping me to understand the work I am doing. Before working as an Apprentice, I had only used AutoCAD during my work experience, producing basic drawings and copying shapes, but now I’ve learnt a lot about Revit and how to use it in more detail – we use it on several jobs across the business, the main one for me being a large retail project in Nottingham called intu Broadmarsh.

The most rewarding part of my apprenticeship so far has been going to site at another of our projects, the Five Towns Leisure and Wellbeing Hub in Pontefract, and seeing the rebar (reinforcing steel) for C28/35 grade concrete for a ground floor upstand that I had designed on the computer – a real life impact of my work. I have enjoyed learning how the software works and the practical knowledge behind reinforcing. Things like this make me realise how steep the learning curve is as an apprentice. In less than three months I have developed a better understanding of rebar and drainage from the different projects I’m working on.

I’m still in the early stages of my career but I know things will ramp up in later years as I learn more advanced skills, especially as I am looking to become a Chartered Engineer with both the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). I’ve recommended apprenticeships to everyone I know who are still in high school or sixth form because there’s so many benefits to having real-world experiences to reinforce the work you are doing in your course.

Jonathan Asquith

If you would like to learn more about National Apprenticeship Week, please visit the Government’s website by clicking here.

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