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Working lives


Tom Allen, 26, is a graduate engineer with Essex County Council. He is now seconded to Alfred McAlpine Civil Engineering.

Route to job I completed a degree in civil engineering at Edinburgh University in 1996 and then took a year off, travelling and working in the United States and West Africa. I then took a two year masters degree in urban and regional planning at Heriot-Watt University.

From here, I went straight to Essex County Council as a transport planner and engineer. I spent my first year on the team responsible for preparing the Essex local transport plan before being seconded to Alfred McAlpine as a site engineer on the A131 Great Leighs bypass.

Essex County Council was interested in getting people involved in its graduate training scheme from the moment I started.

Since joining I have been involved in helping develop the initiative.

Expectations I have always wanted to work in the public sector. I like its broad remit, and would eventually like to be involved in the project management of large public sector schemes.

What impressed me about the training scheme was that although the council has largely externalised its direct engineering roles, it seems very keen to establish partnership relations. I saw it as a great opportunity to get experience in areas the council was no longer involved in, giving me a good grounding for becoming chartered.

The reality Working on site is very different to what I expected on leaving college.

I am involved in setting out work, designing drainage and liaising with local communities, and I am learning a great deal in a short space of time. Everything is goal oriented, which I find very satisfying. I am due to finish my secondment next February, but I may stay on to see the project through to completion.

Advice You definitely need to be an all rounder and very flexible, as local authorities offer a wide range of work. I would say it is the right job it you are not particularly money oriented as well as interested in serving the community. I would also say it is worth the hard graft.

I am pleased to have a job that I really enjoy doing and getting up for every day - unlike some of my fellow students who went into the City.

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