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Tell it like it is

Working lives - Enthusiasm for the job and a desire to explain it clearly made Alexandra Ward the Civil Trainee of the Year.

Had Alexandra Ward known she was going to win the London Underground/Calco Civil Trainee Award 2005 she would have dressed up. 'I keep a jacket and heels handy for special occasions, ' she says.

But, not expecting to win, the modest 24 year old went straight to the admittedly not very glamorous venue - an upstairs room at the Bunch of Grapes pub near London Bridge - from her present project, Buckhurst Hill embankment stabilisation project in north London.

Ward is construction supervisor for the scheme, her latest placement in a three year graduate training scheme with Underground PPP contractor Metronet BCV.

The Civil Trainee Award, which is organised by recruitment consultant Calco with London Underground, Metronet and Underground contractor Tubelines, assesses the report writing skills of engineering trainees.

Ward stood out among this year's entrants for demonstrating 'involvement in the placement' and for exploiting to the full the learning opportunities available to her, says London Underground chief engineering director Jim Moriarty, one of the judges.

Moriarty had already been impressed with Ward when she joined his team producing risk based analysis of bridge strikes.

Carrying off a prize of £1,000, Ward puts her success largely down to the enthusiasm she had for the subject of her winning report, site managing the Brixton Tube station congestion relief project. In explaining the project, 'I tried to make it readable and concise and limit the amount of technical jargon, ' she says.

Engineering runs in Ward's family. Her brother and two grandfathers were mechanical engineers, and her father an electrical engineer. But a keen interest in geography led her to take an MEng in environmental engineering and resource management at Nottingham University.

It was not until her final year, while working on the structural assessment of the degradation and restoration of Newstead Abbey, that her interest turned towards civil engineering.

Keen to 'hang up my apron' from her student job as a pub chef, she applied for and was accepted onto Metronet's graduate trainee scheme, starting the September following her graduation. 'I was impatient to move on from student life, and find some direction, ' she says.

The training scheme has provided variety, says Ward, yielding experience of liaising with client teams for inspection, maintenance and civils asset work. She is also lined up to take the ICE law and contracts exam.

Ward likes the fact that Metronet's scheme does not 'pigeon-hole you too early', she says. 'You get a better overview if you are not sure what you want to be.' Now half way through the course, Ward still has areas - such as design - she wishes to explore. But she is starting to establish where she would like to work.

'I have enjoyed the site placements above all.' Ward has no regrets about taking up engineering.

'When I'm at the pub with my friends who are bankers and so on, my stories are always far more interesting than anyone else's.'

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