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Q&A | How a trainee became an engineering technician

Jones Bros site engineer Rhys Roberts talks about working on several wind energy projects and about recently completing his registration as an engineering technician (EngTech)

What do you most look forward to on a Monday morning?

Putting the on-site plans into action so site progress is visible throughout the coming week.

What’s the most exciting part of your work?

Creating designs for access tracks on the wind farm projects. I especially enjoy carrying out topographic surveys on site, processing them and turning them into site plans or drawings, which will be used by others.

Rhys Roberts

Rhys Roberts, engineering technician with Jones Bros

Why does your job matter?

It’s a career I enjoy greatly. It gives me the chance to help design and construct projects that will hopefully be of a greater benefit to the surrounding environment. As a civil engineer I will hopefully be able to look back at structures or developments that I have helped construct that have improved someone’s life.

What specific skills do you offer?

As well as designing access roads and crane hard standings for wind farm projects, I produce surveys on-site using GPS. I also assist with on-site health and safety procedures and produce task specific method statements and risk assessment ensuring the safety of all site workers.

What stands out as the most valuable thing you’ve done?

Personally for me the most valuable thing I have done is achieve my qualifications. From my BTEC in civil engineering all the way through to my latest accreditation, I have always been proud of what I have managed to achieve.

How does your role impact on the built environment?

Currently I am working on the construction of a wind farm, which will generate enough electricity to meet the energy needs of 140,000 homes.

How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?

The question I’m always asked is ‘What is a civil engineer?’ I then like to explain that without civil engineers we wouldn’t be able to do the things we take for granted such as driving on roads or bridges and watching sporting activities in stadiums. I tell them that I am responsible for making sure that these structures are built in the correct place and to the correct specification.

What was your career route?

One of the design and technology A-level modules was to write a case study on a company of my choice. I was lucky enough to get a week’s work experience at Jones Bros to look at its role in the A5 Ty Nant rock-cutting project. I must have impressed them because at the end of the week I was told that if I ever wanted to come back during school holidays to assist the engineer, the door was always open. I took them up on their offer during the next half term. I was offered a modern apprenticeship at the end of the week, and told that Jones Bros would send me to college in order to gain a BTEC in civil engineering. Two years on and I am still with Jones Bros working as a site engineer.

How far removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer do you think your job is?

My job allows me to be responsible for many things other than setting out and surveying. In my current role I am responsible for health and safety, cost control, management of labour and resources and designing. I believe engineers nowadays have much more involvement in the day-to-day running of construction projects, which I enjoy greatly.

Did your role exist five years ago?

To put it simply, yes. My role has, and as long as things need constructing or setting out, will always exist.

How do you see it changing in next five years?

In five years I hope my role will allow me to progress up to site agent level where I will have more control over site activities.

What’s going to be the most exciting thing about it then?

The most exciting thing about it will be managing projects with my own site team.

What’s your advice to someone like you?

My advice would be to make sure that you take any great opportunities that come your way. Whether it is attending university after finishing school or by following the path that I took with a modern apprenticeship. There are some great ways into civil engineering and so as long as you are willing to work, you will always find a way in.

What would you be if you weren’t in this role?

To be honest, I’m not sure where I would be if I wasn’t in this role. I wanted to be a civil engineer from a very early age so I made sure I chose the correct subjects in school. I would like to say that I would still be in construction as it’s an industry that I have always been interested in.

Tell us about the EngTech registration process

It was mostly report based, which I’ve done plenty of before, and means I’m now a member of the ICE, which really means a lot. The registration included writing a report on a project I’ve worked on, which I put together on the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project, where I’m currently working. I also had to talk about the experience I’ve gained on site, which includes the design and assessment of site tracks, assisting with controlling plant on site, and carrying out health and safety and cost control assessments.

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