Civil engineering, construction and building

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Student on building site

Placement with Bouygues working on Big Build project

Stephanie chats to George Halliwell who is on placement with Bouygues, working on the university’s Big Build project and studying Project Management Construction BSc(Hons)

Stephanie: Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to study at university and how you decided what you wanted to do? 

George: When I was at school, I didn’t really think I would want to do any more studying, so I had a gap year, worked at a pub and did generic gap year things. By the time I was halfway through that I was up for a bit of education again. I’d already applied for my course, how  I came about it I’m not really a hundred percent sure to be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do; I play a lot of music, but I didn’t really want to study music at uni and I thought I’d done a bit of building with my dad throughout my life, but it wasn’t exactly something I’d been working towards all my life. I started finding out about it, thought it sounded cool, went to some open days and got a bit more information on it and thought, why not? I went around with a couple of my mates to a few different uni open days.  

Stephanie:  How did you find going from school to university and that change in the way you have to study and learn? 

George:  I didn’t really like school that much to be fair. I liked the social aspect of it but the studying I really hated and by the end I was done with education in general. The structure of uni is definitely so much better, it’s a lot more independent. 

Stephanie:  Would you say you’ve changed in any way since coming here? 

George:  Yeah, I was nineteen when I started, so it’s been two and a half years, I definitely think I’ve changed quite a lot since I started. Moving out of home, independence and basic things like cooking and doing your own washing, it’s alright, I don’t mind it now. I was catered first year, second year I was a bit more having to cook for myself.  

Stephanie:  So you were in halls, were you? 

George:  Yeah, at Valley Park. 

Stephanie:  How did you find that? 

George:  I was in a flat with six people, we had a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms between us; I had a great time in halls, obviously I’d had a gap year so I was quite ready to leave home by that point. I had a great time in halls, it was great fun. 

Stephanie:  Was there anything about the course that was different to any of the other places you were thinking about? 

George:  I remember talking to Phil Ashton when I came down, he did a lecture and I talked to him for quite a while after, I thought he was extremely enthusiastic, and it actually sounded pretty good. I was still unsure about it, so that’s actually probably quite a big factor. He had a lot of time for us.  

Stephanie:  What would you say have been the highlights of your course so far? 

George:  We did a field trip which was really good in first year, in Somerset. The people I was with on the course, we weren’t particularly close, and I didn’t really know them that well; we did the field trip and it helped us all get to know each other a lot better which was pretty nice. It was before Christmas in the first term, I think. We were doing a project down there, it was a course where we all went down and we built an enclosure with a toilet that flushed, all on different aspects of the team, I was doing the drainage bit so we had to dig all the trenches and put all the pipes in and whatnot. Another team was doing the dry lining, putting the walls up and that sort of thing. That was good. We’d all be in different sections but have to make it work within the different teams, which is the same sort of principle as this placement.  

Stephanie:  Would you recommend your course? 

George:  I would recommend it, I’ve enjoyed it. I think the workload’s been quite a good amount for me personally. Enough to be occupied, but at the same time a good amount so that you can do well if you try hard. You’ve still got to work hard for it, but you can do well, and I quite like the practicality of it, the fact that it is almost like a trade so you can do it anywhere. There’s quite a lot of stuff I’ve learned at uni that has come up since I’ve been on the placement, which is obviously helpful. 

Stephanie:  How did you hear about your placement; how did you apply? Were you looking? 

George:  Through the Uni, I was in touch with the Placements team in Cockcroft, Mark was really helpful with everything, he was class, with my CV, all my cover letters, interview preparation. That was very helpful indeed. I was applying for placements locally and then the Uni are in touch with certain people they bring on, I think that’s how this one came about. I got an interview and got the job obviously! 

Stephanie:  What are you doing on your placement, what’s your role? 

 George:  I’m on the envelope team, working on the external envelope in a team of three people currently. We’re in charge of the external envelope of the building so the cladding, the brickwork, the windows, the SFS, structural framing steel, which is one of the packages I’m managing. The three people in the team, we’ve got the manager, I’m on placement and another assistant manager. We’ve got different packages each so I’m doing SFS and architectural metal work, all the handrails, balustrades and bits like that around the site. It’s quite good to be fair because that one’s at a very early stage, still at the tender stage, so I’ve been writing up the tender packages, working with the QS to do them and then the SFS is starting on site now. They’re both at different stages which is quite good to see. It’s on people’s radar because of Grenfell and stuff, it’s had quite a big impact; obviously I came in at a later stage so I didn’t see it all unfold, but it has, everyone’s said that a lot of things have changed in the fire regulations. There’s been quite a big impact on it.  

Stephanie:  What’s your job title on placement? 

 George:  Assistant Facade Manager, or Assistant Site Manager, either or. It’s putting together the drawing and things like that, the scope of works, the bill of quantities, like a list of all the things that we need to include. 

Stephanie:  Do you get involved in deciding who gets the contract? 

George:  I probably will, yes, our QS for our team I get on with really well and he’s been very helpful because he’s taken me through every stage of it so I’ve got a good understanding of it, letting me do as much as he can, still making sure what I’m doing is correct, not being left on my own.  

Stephanie:  How do you feel your placement will give you a bit of an edge when applying for jobs? 

 George:  It’s just experience isn’t it? I think construction is a lot of experience; having a year of getting to know the industry more than anything else, interpersonal skills with people on site, it’s a variety of people and you don’t want to be a manager who walks around on site just like, “Do this, do this, do this.” You want to be more approachable, they’re all doing different things, so many different nationalities around site. It’s a French company so there’s a lot of French people, people from literally everywhere to be honest. 

Stephanie:  Is this giving you experience to make you think this is what you’d like to do when you leave? 

George:  I definitely want to carry on doing it and get more experience and knowledge of the industry so I can have more of an option then, because at the minute I’m just starting out. I want a decent amount of knowledge and experience before I think about doing something else, but I think I will do something construction related even if I did want to change after. There are different areas you can go into, I think it’s a very valuable experience working on this site in particular because it’s a massive project and there’s so much going on, it’s a good place to start. 

Stephanie:  What do you think is the most valuable thing or things you’ve learned on placement? 

George:  Working life, I think, it’s a bit of a reality check. It’s commitment, you’ve got to wake up every day, routine, which I quite like to be fair, I feel more productive and I’m more productive in my spare time because it’s more valuable. You sit down to watch telly and you’re like, I don’t want to do this. I feel like I should be doing something worthwhile. 

 Stephanie:  How do you plan to use your course in the future? 

George:  I can imagine me going into construction, a lot of them have the acceptance criteria of having a degree, obviously it stands you in good stead. Before I went to uni I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so it’s given me a good route to go down, it’s practical and I’m always going to be able to get a job in it. Some other courses don’t offer that.  

Laura Ruby • May 15, 2020

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