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2017 Graduate of the Year winners

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What makes for an outstanding civil engineering graduate? New Civil Engineer’s Graduate awards offer the answer.

A degree in civil engineering is a now a requirement for up to 15% of all engineering vacancies, up from 9% in 2012.

As a skill set, civil engineering is now ranked inside the top 10 most requested skills clusters in the industry.

What technology – and artificial intelligence and automation in particular – will do to that demand is hard to predict. The skill sets required will almost certainly change. But how? And where does a budding graduate civil engineer go to develop the right ones?

This year, New Civil Engineer’s Graduate Awards has tried a little experiment to help answer that last question.

This year the awards recognise three winners: one working for a client, one for a consultant and one for a contractor. The move was designed to test a theory that these three organisations are very different in their nature and seek different skills in their graduate talent.

The finding? Was there any clear difference in skill set? Not really. All nine finalists were highly talented; and all three winning graduates will be outstanding employment candidates who are already making a positive impact in the industry.

But more than that, they also had a clear vision for what they would do as New Civil Engineer Graduate of the Year.

The nine finalists were judged on academic and engineering skills, with emphasis on enthusiasm, initiative and leadership potential.

They had their written submissions scrutinised and then faced a gruelling 20 minute Dragon’s Den-style pitch with our panel of 16 judges (see box).

From our winners, the judges’ then had to pick one who New Civil Engineer and the ICE will work with to develop their idea.

A judge’s best of the best, this was the winner who really stood out with a clear plan that they articulated with passion and clarity.

Winner: Consultant graduate of the year and judges’ choice

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Charlotte Murphy

Employer: Arup

University details: University of Cambridge, BA Hons First Class, MEng with distinction

Year of graduation: 2016

“Infrastructure projects can be so much more than their fundamental purpose of transporting things from A to B”, says this year’s New Civil Engineer Graduate of the Year winner Charlotte Murphy.

“They have the potential to transform communities and revolutionise the way that people live their lives,” she says.

As a graduate bridges engineer on Arup’s civil structures, bridges and tunnels team Murphy has worked on the new light rail link between Luton Airport, which was once voted the worst airport in the UK, and the existing Network Rail station, saying it is “exciting to be part of a project that will deliver much needed improvement”.

Diversity is also an important issue for her and she spearheaded a campaign to change Arup policy and mandate the use of gender neutral language in communications  to promote inclusion within the company. She also serves as a STEM ambassador.

Encouraging “outside work engineering” will be her priority as Graduate of the Year, which is perhaps unsurprising for a former Cambridge Engineering Society events officer; winner of the Institution of Structural Engineers Pai Lin Li Travel Award.

She also recently became a reserve army officer in the Royal Engineers, while finding time to run the Great Wall of China marathon; trek to Everest base camp; and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Before joining Arup Murphy did placements with Rolls Royce, Davis Maguire & Whitby, Expedition Engineering and Laing O’Rourke.

Her plan is simple: create “Do More”; a conference and awards event celebrating achievemets with extra curricular community engagement, development, disaster relief and research activities.

Consultant graduate of the year runners up

Gavin Pillinger

Employer: Amey

University details: University of Sheffield, MEng structural engineering and architecture 2:1

Year of graduation: 2015

 “We need to change the attitude that innovation is disruptive and dangerous, otherwise the civil engineering industry is in danger of falling decades behind”, says Amey graduate engineer Gavin Pillinger. However, he says that engineers should question the sustainability and social and environmental implications of projects, adding “these are not easy questions for engineers to ask when such a daring and impressive engineering project is laid before them. But the costs of such a decision are enormous.” As president of his university’s Architects & Engineering Society, Pillinger has continued to promote collaboration between the professions since graduating. “I am passionate about helping other engineers thrive and love sharing different ideas and perspectives about our industry”, he says.

Jo Maguire

Employer: Mott MacDonald

University details: University of Birmingham, MEng with industrial experience, 2:1

Year of graduation: 2015

A three-month placement with Engineers Without Borders in Cameroon inspired Jo Maguire to try to empower women and young people who “may be overlooked”, she says. She worked with the charity Reignite to research a feasibility study on water irrigation during the dry season and used the experience to mentor students studying a sustainability module. Since leaving university Maguire has become a committee member of the Ironmongers Foundation and secured £6,000 sponsorship for a Girls in STEM day. She continues to promote equality and inclusion, and says: “it is our responsibility to ensure that our workforce represents the world.” As a graduate civil engineer with Mott MacDonald she has worked on high profile projects such as the Birmingham Midland Metro Scheme and the M6 Junction 10 improvement scheme.

Winner: Client graduate of the Year

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Christian O’Brien

Employer: Bellway Homes

University details: University of Surrey MEng civil engineering with year in industry first class

Year of graduation: 2016

As a graduate at Bellway Homes, Christian O’Brien’s career highlights include engaging with stakeholders; being a main point of contact for residents near a “contentious development”; clearing challenging planning conditions by producing construction and environmental management plans and planning statements; and leading the design with external consultants to achieve “buildable and cost-effective solutions”.

After a few months with the company he was made responsible for the engineering project management and coordination of three residential developments, with a gross value of around £100M.

While studying at the University of Surrey he found the skills he was developing as an engineer were transferable to his role volunteering at a youth club, where he says his proudest moment was preparing and delivering bids to the council to secure local government funding for the club. O’Brien said he would change the way the controversial 1992 M3 motorway project cutting through the Twyford Down in Winchester was presented to the public. He says: “It [the project] was arguably a catalyst for negatively impacting the public’s perception of highway infrastructure projects.”

Client graduate of the year runners up

Jennifer Richardson

Employer: United Utilities

University details: Newcastle University, BSc (Hons) environmental science, first class, and MSc engineering geology, distinction

Year of graduation: 2015

 “It is important that when we discover methods of overcoming engineering challenges, we inform others so that we can strive for continuous improvement,” says Jennifer Richardson. In the years since she graduated she has used her experience as a construction supervisor on reservoir projects to mentor A-Level students.

Cleo McGlennon

Employer: Transport for London

University details: University of Manchester, MEng civil engineering with study in North America

Year of graduation: 2016

Witnessing the aftermath of the 2013 Alberta floods gave Cleo McGlennon the “drive to succeed” because she saw the “positive impact civil engineers have on communities”. She has worked on Crossrail 2 and the Northern Line Extension (NLE) while on the Transport for London graduate scheme. McGlennon is passionate about engaging others in engineering and has already started to “effect change” as editor of TfL newsletter “The Engineer”, a STEM ambassador and mentor for a first-year civil engineering graduate at the Northern Line Extension.

Winner: Contractor graduate of the year

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Jonathan Knight

Employer: Balfour Beatty

University details: Brunel University, MEng civil engineering, with sustainability, first class honours

Year of graduation: 2016

At Brunel University Jonathan Knight says he learned about the “social responsibility and change the industry can bring about”. He decided to focus his dissertation on the removal of fluoride from drinking water in less economically developed countries, winning the Emerging Engineers Award 2016 London Regional Prize.

As an environmental coordinator at Coca-Cola Enterprises while on his year in industry he was particularly proud of saving the business around £10,000 through process improvement projects in the factory.

In his current role as a graduate site engineer at Balfour Beatty, working on the Tideway project, he organised a stand-up comedy night on site for staff and operatives to focus on welfare and mental health, with attendees saying, “the event made them forget that they were on a construction site”.

Contractor graduate of the year runners up

Irosha Gunatunga

Employer: Bam Nuttall

University details: University of Surrey, MEng Civil Engineering with sandwich year, first class honours

Year of graduation: 2015

Inclusion and engaging with the public is central to Irosha Gunatunga’s approach to engineering. “As an industry we need to be more transparent with the public and hide less behind hoarding”, she says. Alongside her job as a site engineer at BAM Nuttall she is a lead coordinator of the Bam Ambassadors Scheme, which is a national scheme set up across the country which allows staff two days a year to volunteer and encourage more young people into STEM.

Richard Scott

Employer: Laing O’Rourke

University details: University of Dundee, MEng civil engineering, design and management, first class honours

Year of   graduation: 2015

“Our work has the ability to influence the built environment like no other”, says Laing O’Rourke site engineer Richard Scott. In his two years with Laing O’Rourke he has encouraged digital innovation and established a business case for buying a Leica MS60 Multistation, which was a first for the company, to “drive pioneering digital engineering functions” such as 3D as-built heat maps, live concrete scanning and setting out from Navisworks model.

The judges

Alison Norrish director, Arup Infrastructure London Group,

Brittany Harris graduate engineer, Buro Happold

David Bennett business manager, Topcon

David Smith chief strategy officer, MWH UK

Graham Dickinson marketing director, MWH

Kate Morris  director, Aecom strategic planning and advisory EMIA

Ken Harland consulting and rail business director, Amey

Lesley Waud strategic highways market director, Atkins

Mark Reynolds chief executive, Mace

Michèle Dix chief executive, Crossrail 2

Phil Stride strategic projects director, Tideway

Rachel Skinner head of development and executive director, WSP

Steve Feeley director of membership recruitment, ICE

Darren Calderwood director, Heathrow Airport Ltd

Phil Wilbraham director, Heathrow Airport Ltd

Paul Norris director, Mott MacDonald







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