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The rookie: Tim Pitt

Case Studies

Desk bound and a bit disillusioned 10 years after graduating as a civil engineer, Tim Pitt craved more excitement.

'I graduated 10 years ago but it took me a further eight years to get chartered. I moved around a lot to try and get experience but our industry is very structured and you don't get many breaks. There is little scope to be individualistic.'

After giving up his last job inspecting subsidence for loss adjuster McLarens Toplis, Pitt is preparing to fly out to Afghanistan and Pakistan to help build roads, bridges and flood defences and pass on his skills to indigenous engineers.

VSO was an opportunity to develop faster, said Pitt, who approached the organisation after seeing an advertisement in NCE. He said: 'Here I don't feel like I make a difference. If I left, someone would come in and replace me. Out there, I could make a difference to people.

Pitt may return in two years time a more attractive engineer to employers. While working for Afghan Aid in the Afghan capital city Kabul, Pitt will be responsible for setting up a British project management system and teaching it to local engineers.

Pitt, is now trying to adapt to a new way of thinking on VSO training weekends is optimistic about living on £70 a month. 'I think we get the balance wrong here. We work hard but we haven't time to enjoy ourselves.'

Home again: Richard McGowan

Richard McGowan has just returned after two years in the Caribbean island of Monserrat, working as a government civil engineer on the volcano-hit island.

McGowan made the change because four years after chartership he felt he was not doing enough 'hands on' civil engineering.

He said: 'The first couple of years after chartership can be tough going. It's hard to find the next challenge.'

McGowan's tropical challenge was to work on road and highway projects for the public works department in Monserrat. A volcanic eruption had caused the population to move from the south to the less populated north of the island.

McGowan turned his hand to managing, designing, surveying, setting out, construction supervision, financial planning, submissions to the Department for International Development and 'banging the pegs in'.

He said: 'At one stage I was the only civil engineer working for the Government out there.'

Not surprisingly perhaps, after accepting his notice two years before, Mott McDonald employed him again on his return home.

'VSO is something I always wanted to do,' said McGowan. 'I love travelling but I also wanted to do some voluntary work. It's not a bad idea to step out of your career for a year or two. I certainly feel the benefit of that now I'm back.

'I had brilliant times and difficult times. Not being attuned to local ways and customs was difficult. No matter how much you prepare for it you put your foot in it a few times. But working with the local people was also rewarding.'

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