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The future of tunnelling? Be an apprentice on Crossrail

Morgan Sindall’s Regina Tumblepot knows her job matters - friends have told her that Crossrail will halve the time it takes them to get to work. That’s what makes civil engineering so rewarding.

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

Well, Monday is my college day, so learning! When I come back from my days off, I love seeing how much the site has changed in such a short period of time. When I take a holiday, there can be a whole new section of tunnel by the time I get back!

What’s the most exciting part of your day/week?

Probably when we come across a problem! Day to day the job changes, so it’s always exciting but when I have to think of solutions, that’s when I really get my brain working.

Why does your job matter so much?

It matters because it will make a big difference for people; friends have told me that the Crossrail project will halve the time it takes them to get to work. That’s what makes civil engineering so rewarding.

What specific skills do you offer?

I’ve had a lot of experience in Sprayed Concrete Lining tunnelling now, so I am very comfortable with this method of tunnelling and I’ve had quite a lot of setting out experience too. I have been on the Crossrail C510 project from the beginning and I’m quite confident I’ll be here until the end. I think it’s really useful for my career to have seen the project all the way through from the beginning and I now have a very good understanding of the overall program. I also make a very good cup of tea!

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

Probably the work I’ve done to promote STEM initiatives and apprenticeships. If I can help to inspire young people into thinking about this career, then this will make a difference to the industry. Career-wise, I think the most valuable thing I have done was to become professionally qualified with the ICE because this now shows my professional status.

How does your role impact on the built environment?

As a trainee engineer, I am very excited to be involved in the ever-changing London skyline and more specifically for me, its underground footprint. The economy of London is very important to the economy of the UK as a whole and being involved in Europe’s largest infrastructure project to improve transport links into the capital means that I have a direct impact on this economic benefit.   

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

I tell them that it is my job involves taking a concept or drawing and helping make it become a reality by building/constructing it with my team ensuring it is done safely and ‘right first time’.

How did you get into the job/what was your career route?

I studied manufacturing and mechanical engineering at college and just loved the logic behind it. I couldn’t stand the thought of being stuck behind a desk through university, so I decided to look for a civil engineering apprenticeship. It was the best decision I ever made; I love learning, working and gaining experience at the same time.

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

Research and technology has improved and is improving all the time, allowing modern civil engineers to be a lot more precise, accurate and safe. Tunnelling has changed a lot since Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first Thames Tunnel!

Did your role exist five years ago?

The civil engineering technician apprenticeship has taken off in the last three years; more and more companies are seeing the benefit of taking on young people this way and moulding them into the type of engineer they want them to be.

How do you see it changing in next five years? 

Tunnelling has really changed over the last 30 years; safety, quality and production are improving all the time. The more tunnels we create, the more we learn and there’s a lot of tunnelling work coming up in the UK in the next few years. I can’t wait to see how much more advanced we will be in 5 years’ time!

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

I think discovering new methods of tunnelling in difficult ground conditions will be really exciting.

What’s your advice to someone like you?

Never be afraid to do what you want to do; you will learn on your feet and if you put all your effort into whatever you do, you will be noticed.

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

I genuinely couldn’t imagine doing anything except engineering of some sort! I think if I had to choose, I would have gone into archaeology. I volunteered on an archaeological site one summer and absolutely loved it. Discovering history right under my feet was incredible. I guess I was just born the work in the ground!

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