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My life as a Mott MacDonald apprentice Ruth Watson

When I finish my apprenticeship, I’ll have a level 5 BTEC in civil engineering and then I’ll do a top-up year to get my degree.

"Looking back, an apprenticeship was best for me. I’m a hands-on learner so applying what I’m doing at college straight away at work has been great"

I originally planned to study engineering at university, but a family member became ill during my A levels and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped to. I was quite worried at first but after researching options online, I found out about civil engineering apprenticeships. Looking back, an apprenticeship was best for me. I’m a hands-on learner so applying what I’m doing at college straight away at work has been great.

I took a gap year after sixth form. I spent six weeks travelling in South East Asia and three months volunteering in South America, so I applied for apprenticeships while I was in Bolivia. My application to Mott MacDonald started with an online application. I answered five or six questions about me, my passions and career goals, I was then invited into the office to take a maths and English test. The final stage was an interview. I think I stood out because I could show I was passionate about engineering. While at school, I’d attended a Headstart course in chemical engineering and a women in engineering event.

I moved away from home for my apprenticeship as it is based in Leeds. Luckily, I had friends at university in Leeds, so I moved into a student house with them. The hardest part has been not going home as much as them (they have long holidays), but it’s great to be able to socialise with them.

I am in the reservoir team at Mott MacDonald Bentley. I’ve worked on various reservoir safety projects in North Yorkshire: I’m currently investigating a reservoir that has had issues with its valves and penstocks and how we can make it safe again. My job involves completing calculations, drawing up designs (using 3D modelling), planning and project management. I also meet with clients and site teams and I try to visit site once a week.

I go to college one day a week from 9am-7:30pm for three three-hour lessons. We’re taught the content in the first half of each class and spend the second half working on assignments. I try to get all my assignments done at college so I’m free to socialise in the evening and do what I want at the weekend. My employer also provides training. I’ve been on a drawing software course, and I regularly attend sessions on topics such as 3D modelling and corrosion. When I finish my apprenticeship, I’ll have a level 5 BTEC in civil engineering and then I’ll do a top-up year to get my degree.

I came into the industry with no knowledge of civil engineering, but I’ve learned so much in a year. Completing my first calculation was an important achievement for me. It took me a week to complete it, but now I feel comfortable doing calculations. I was also recently named the New Civil Engineer Apprentice of the Year!

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