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Working lives

Your career

Sarah Leavey is 24 and an assistant environmental engineer with Skanska.

Route to the job

My first contact in civil engineering was at school where I worked on a project designing a traffic calming scheme for a town centre. As part of our research we visited Kent County Council Highways department, where I saw the type of work carried out by civil engineers. That summer I worked as an assistant site engineer, setting out a housing estate for a small contractor. The following year I began studying for a MEng in civil engineering with environmental management at UMIST. While at university, I spent two summers as an assistant site engineer for Skanska on contract 430 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) in Kent. Following graduation, I wanted to follow my interest in the environmental aspect of my degree and applied to Skanska for a position as an environmental engineer.

I have since been working on Skanska's contract 230 for CTRL in Stratford, east London, for nearly a year.

Expectations

I was hoping to gain valuable experience in dealing with contaminated land, where I could put into practice the theory learned from geotechnics and environmental engineering modules at university. I also wanted to ensure there was an engineering aspect to my work, and I that could still train for ICE chartership.

Reality

CTRL contract 230 - construction of a below ground concrete box 1km long and 50m wide to house Stratford International Station - is located on an urban brownfield site, which is to be remediated to allow regeneration of the Stratford area. I have been involved with the site investigation process, including visual assessments, trial pitting and laser cone testing as well as the preparation of risk assessments. I help ensure that the recommendations of these reports are carried out on site. As a consequence of my work here, I have developed my geotechnical and environmental engineering knowledge a great deal. I am also under a graduate training agreement with the ICE.

Advice

My advice to students is to find work experience while at university, which puts you in a better position for selecting the most suitable job after graduating. Graduates should not be afraid of diversifying and looking into the variety of jobs available within the civil engineering industry.

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