Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023 – meet Fiona Thomson,
Graduate Apprentice Civil Engineer – Wills Bros/University of Strathclyde.
What is your career path so far?
I left school at 18 (6th year), straight into work/Uni in my apprenticeship.
How long have you worked for Wills Bros?
How long does your apprenticeship last and what qualification will you have at the end of it?
The apprenticeship course is completed over 4 years, upon completion I will receive an honours degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The Apprenticeship route was recommended to me at school due to the work based learning as I was interested in something different/a bit more practical than a standard 9-5 office job. I feel that Engineering has the perfect balance.
What interested you in Engineering and construction?
Originally, I had applied to university to do Architecture, Architectural Technology and Quantity Surveying, but I was looking for other options as full-time university didn’t really appeal to me. At the time wills bros were working locally in the town, on the Maybole bypass project, and had partnered with Strathclyde University to provide Apprenticeship opportunities in the local area through the graduate Apprentice scheme. It was recommended to me at school due to the work-based learning as I was interested in something different/a bit more practical than a standard 9-5 office job.
I feel that Engineering has the perfect balance. Civil engineering specifically is so broad it gives you the opportunity to experience all kinds of job roles, from site engineer, structural engineer, environmental engineer, design engineer, quality engineer, surveying engineer, quantity surveyor, etc. and you can specialise wherever fits you best. This is beneficial, if like me you have a general interest but aren’t yet sure what you do/ don’t enjoy or where you can see yourself in the future.
What are the kinds of things you do on a daily basis?
Every site is different and depending on the job, requires different day to day tasks but most things are generally very similar, for example, things like: Permits to work, Material take offs, Stock takes, raising plant/material requisitions, setting out various lines/levels using total station and/or GPS, tracking material testing and test results, Site pictures/ keeping a daily diary.
What do you like best about it?
The best bits about my Apprenticeship are that I’m given the opportunity to work in different locations, on a variety of projects. I also get to work with and gain experience from lots of interesting and inspiring people, working in a wide range of job roles.
It gives you the chance to develop different life skills. The first site I worked on was a bypass project local to me building roads and bridges, where I learned the basics of my job, I then moved to a flood protection project about an hour away, which gave me new responsibilities. At some point it is likely I will be on a project even further away that I’ll have to move away from home, which is something else new I will have to adapt to. Never being stuck in the same place for too long is a massive benefit exposing you to so many different environments. This ensures no two days are the same, there are always problem solving and challenges to overcome.
What would you say to other young people considering a career in the industry?
It is a job that you will never stop learning in and people with more experience want to help you learn. Making mistakes, recognising, and resolving them is a big part of learning. It is so important to constantly ask questions and I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a silly one! It is beneficial if you have an interest in existing technology, the psychical world, how things work and solving problems. Useful skills are self-discipline, motivation and the willingness learn new topics. Good communication and teamwork skills are also important.