Constructing the perfect career plan in civil engineering

As his career as an CS&A engineer goes from strength to strength, Joe Driver tells us how his time at Plymouth lay the foundation to his success

"My career path was always clear, but I wasn’t always aware of the opportunities that would be granted once I completed my degree. The University has great ties to the engineering community and a high regard with some employers, meaning I was able to secure a number of interviews just before I finished."

This is Joe's story

Joe Driver graduated in MEng (Hons) Civil and Coastal Engineering from Plymouth in 2014 and is now working as a Civil, Structural and Architectural (CS&A) engineer for Sellafield Limited in Warrington.

Here Joe takes looks back on his time studying at Plymouth and reflects on his experience in the industry since graduating.

"I honestly would not change anything since I graduated. I have achieved a lot in a short space of time.

"Since completing my studies, I went to work for the oil and gas services company Petrofac, based in Nottingham, where I worked as a mechanical/maintenance engineer, designing computerised maintenance management systems for new and existing plants, internationally. I was fortunate enough to travel a lot, visiting client offices, as well as experiencing an exciting period verifying a new gas plant in the Middle East. Although the days were long and the work challenging, I gained a lot of experience I was able to take back to the office and implement in my future projects.

"After 18 months, I decided it was time to move back into civil engineering and sent off an application to where I work now, Sellafield Limited. I started here in March 2016 on a two-year graduate scheme, which I am almost at the end of. This has involved undertaking a series of three or six-month secondments across the business, in a variety of roles, which has given me the opportunity to gain the necessary experiences required for progression with my chartership.

"So far, I have done a placement with the seismic analysis team, spent six months on site overseeing a construction project, and after which I then went externally to do my design secondment with Jacobs.

"The best experience so far, has been overseeing the construction of a new structure. Over my four months on the project, I witnessed various milestones – from it emerging out of the ground, up until the final piece of steel was erected.

"This gave me a better perspective on the design work I had done previously and also gave me a greater appreciation for the implementation of health and safety.

"I’m currently finishing an engineering skills workshop, where we spend three weeks gaining a hands on appreciation for mechanical, electrical and fabrication."

Engineering at Plymouth

"I chose Plymouth because I wanted to stand on my own two feet – not your normal answer, but I wanted to be far enough away from home that I had to deal with everything that came with this. Secondly, it was because of the course, as it offered me the chance to learn about the coastal protection and modelling element of engineering, while also giving me the potential to do a diving module.

"The University equipped me with both the technical and softer skills needed to succeed. My course gave me the theoretical knowledge that provides the foundation before stepping into the workplace. The softer skills were gained from my work as a student ambassador. This role granted me the opportunity to give presentations and workshops to school students about STEM subjects, encouraging them into further education. On University open days, I worked giving tours of the facilities informing potential students about my experiences.

"My favourite memory of Plymouth was seeing my dissertation coming together in my final year. I chose a project where I could get both practical and analytical experience by building and testing two wave energy converters. This involved a significant amount of problem solving to build the models and create a way of measuring the potential energy being generated. After some late nights and long days, I proved my hypothesis.

"My whole experience at university forged me into the person I am now. I’ve had to work all night, resolve conflicts and overcome some pretty big hurdles to finish my degree. All of these experiences have helped me get to where I am now.

"My advice to a younger version of myself would be to work as hard as I could, but still take the time out to enjoy myself. It is not good to spend your whole time concentrated on work, without taking that time out for a break.

"I recommend Plymouth because of the the access to leading facilities and lecturers. I was able to use the coastal basin as part of my dissertation and recently used Dave Easterbrook’s book on masonry in one of my designs. Another big draw is the location, with the main campus being in the middle of the city centre, within walking distance of all amenities, such as the train station and food and retail shops."

Follow in Joe's footsteps at Plymouth

We all need a clean water supply, shelter, energy, transport, protection from flooding and an infrastructure able to meet societal needs. Civil engineers are at the forefront in providing sustainable, environmentally acceptable solutions to such problems and play increasingly important roles in tackling the challenges and effects of climate change.

Our courses are accredited by the professional bodies of the Engineering Council, including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge (left) next to the Tamar Bridge – connecting Devon to Cornwall by rail and road over the River Tamar