There was a strong entry for this year's NCE Graduate Award, but Amy Worsell was the unanimous choice of the 13 judges. Daniel Rea talked to the top-ranked candidates.
Worsell Amy Worsell bowled the judges over with her ideas and enthusiasm for the civil engineering profession. A long list of national awards was crowned by being named as NCE's Graduate of the Year at Civils 2002.
At the awards lunch she thanked all those who had supported and guided her thus far. Early interest in scientific subjects and structures led to a sixth form scholarship intended to encourage engineering. 'I had to get special permission to study A-Level design and technology at the associated boy's college, ' she reveals.
An inspirational teacher there encouraged her to attend an Insight into Engineering course at Cardiff University, which left her in no doubt about what she wanted to do.
She was soon top student at her chosen university UMIST, and was ICE Student of the Year 2000. 'I just decided to apply, and wrote an essay on my design project, ' she says.
She promoted civil engineering at the careers fairs she helped organise, was member of the Manchester ICE branch and contributed so much to the wider university that this was recognised at graduation with another award.
Consultant Babtie offered Worsell a placement in her final summer holiday. She says she loved the team experience and the combination of design and bridge inspections: 'It was great fun abseiling 30m above the ground and calling it work.'
Even more wisely, Babtie signed her on before her final year. It was the positive experiences on placement and the commitment to her development by her training officer, which made it an easy choice.
The best thing on her course was the opportunity to put some of this real experience to the test. In her third and fourth years she was part of a team which designed a ferrocement bridge 'as though it was to be built in real life'.
Worsell believes that initiatives aimed at schoolchildren - confirmed by her experience - are key to current recruitment difficulties, and the focus should be to get large numbers of able people onto courses.
'The skills and training on a civil engineering undergraduate course are incomparable, ' she says. 'Get courses full, and it doesn't matter if half the graduates work elsewhere afterwards. Those that do will help to raise our profile anyway.'
Graduates' pay should compare with other professions that have similar academic standards and training length, she says. Many of these have far greater (monetary) rewards, but, she enthuses, what can compare to creating amazing structures? Worsell has set her sights on the many challenges and opportunities in the British construction industry and has no ambitions abroad - yet.
When asked what she will spend her £1000 prize money on, she says she will have to toss up between DIY on her new house in Preston, and a holiday with her boyfriend.
John Crawshaw Raised in a coastal village in Cornwall, it seems appropriate that NCE Graduate Awards runner up John Crawshaw is now working in the maritime section at Mott MacDonald's Croydon headquarters. Not content with an already full 'official' workload, he has led a bid for a contract through his own knowledge and contacts.
At Leeds University he was awarded a bursary for being the highest achieving civil engineering student, and concentrated on transport and water resources.
'My interviewer at Mott MacDonald connected my studies to my love of sailing and suggested maritime engineering, ' says Crawshaw. He has not looked back, helping design expansions to three cruise ship terminals in Jamaica, and dredging works in an access channel. Sadly there have been no site visits yet.
At school, a natural aptitude for mathematical subjects, combined with a practical ability and a desire 'to add to people's lives doing real stuff', led him to study civil engineering - supported by his family. He says his undergraduate course was excellent and believes the value of the broad education on offer is not appreciated widely enough.
Crawshaw is less outspoken than others in his views on possible changes needed within the profession, and proud of the many things civil engineering stands for.
And he is not disappointed with work so far. As well as simulation modelling the docking needs of the cruise ships in Jamaica, he is helping design a deepwater ferry quay for a port in Ireland. Training at Mott MacDonald is first class, he says, and he values the genuine support given by assigned senior personnel.
The only downside of working is the reduced time available to pursue his interests. There has only been time to join a regatta across the English Channel and race from London to Brighton on his bicycle in the last few weeks.
And he is planning a sailing holiday in the Isles of Scilly with his girlfriend on the well deserved £500 prize money.
Rachel Battilana So involved is Rachel Battilana in her structures team at consultant Buro Happold, that it was difficult to pin her down for an interview.
She has not even had time to tell her boss that she is one of two runners up in this year's NCE graduate awards competition.
Battilana says she is designing columns on a new children's hospital and doing calculations for a special RAF museum sculpture.
Oh, and developing, through to production, a life-saving insulating liner for UNHCR refugee 'cold climate' tents. Her commitment is such that she plans to spend her £500 prize money testing her latest design at a Chechen camp.
Her employers' release her one day a week to continue what began as her final year project at Cambridge University, where the multi-disciplinary team has just been awarded significant funding.
She almost studied music and electronics, and Buro Happold and the profession might never have benefited from her talent had not a dramatic photograph of a bridge spanning a gorge inspired her to think: 'I could do that!'
Such enthusiasm led her to Tokyo one summer to test cutting edge tunnelling techniques and earthquake performance at a Japanese soil mechanics laboratory. Highly technical, the work had lighter moments. 'For anything complicated (which was most things), colleagues preferred to communicate only in writing, ' she says.
On the future? A sustainable development module at university inspired Battilana about the crucial role the profession has in creating the future - here in the UK and abroad. She has strong ideas on changes needed in the approach to design. 'I don't think design should always be led purely by 'wants' and 'cans' on behalf of the client, ' she says. 'Broader implications and impacts of projects must be a part of the considered design. Bearing all these in mind we ought to ask 'what should we design?'' She aims to gain maximum experience in structures, and then try to implement her ideas.
INFOPLUS: www. shelterproject. org
Alex Holt While he was at Sheffield Hallam University Alex Holt won ICE's top student award for outstanding civil engineering work.
He is now working for British Waterways but it was his description of a summer job when he developed and implemented a traffic management scheme for the M1, which reduced the number of cones and lane closures, that really impressed the judges.
Louise Mitchell won a number of student awards and scholarships while she was studying at Queens' University Belfast including the Royal Academy of Engineering Leadership Award and a scholarship for a year's study in the US at Indianapolis University. Her early ambition to be involved in a major dam project has yet to materialise, but she is currently happily working for Ferguson McIlveen.
Since joining consultant Wormold Burrows Partnership Nicola Morris has helped to promote civil engineering through a number of schools projects and has even devised a new training schedule for her own firm. While at Loughborough University her prizes included a Millennium Award for excellence in civil engineering and she also found time to represent English Universities at basketball.
Carolyn Wright has strong views about training. A heavily theoretical university course, frequently followed by a fiveyear training period of low paid and often boring and repetitive work, is reason enough she believes, for the shortage of graduates. She completely exonerates her present employer, Mott McDonald, from these criticisms and her own time at Herriot Watt University was broken up by a year at Prague Technical University
NCE Graduate Awards 2002 were sponsored by:Ove Arup BAA Babtie Group Bachy Soletanche Balfour Beatty Binnie Black & Veatch Roger Bullivant Hays Montrose Institution of Civil Engineers Marshalls Morrison Construction Railtrack