As autumn gives way to winter, we think back to those busy weeks in September when students come and go from towns and cities across the UK and beyond.
In industry too, we welcome new recruits; recent graduates taking their first steps on the proverbial career ladder or eager students embarking on 'year in industry' placements for a taste of 'real life' experience. A year later, we bid farewell to those same students as they depart with a reserve of industry knowledge to complement their theoretical learnings before completing their degrees and stepping out into the workplace once more.
In recent times, this cyclical movement of young people has, without doubt, been severely disrupted by COVID-19. Mid-pandemic, when industry staggered and slowed as economic uncertainty lingered and opportunities for new recruits declined, Evolve was delighted to be able to continue to offer placements to the next generation of engineers.
Such was the case for Architectural Engineering student Anna Kellett, who joined us in 2020 from the University of Leeds. Anna has now returned to her studies to complete the final year of her four-year degree, having spent 11 months with the evolve team in what was certainly not an average year for student placements.
Looking back over her time in London, Anna says, "It was an honour to be a part of the fantastic team at Evolve, who provided me with such an invaluable kickstart to my engineering career. Having had no prior experience within the industry, within a company or in an office environment, the past year has by far surpassed the initial remit of engineering learning. The breadth of training and support from the team allowed me to grow in my technical abilities; using new software, applying engineering principles to design work calculations, and so much more.”
Anna admits that when COVID-19 restrictions were in effect, learning, working, and collaborating effectively in an online environment was a challenge. She says, “Without the support of the team throughout lockdown, with many phone calls and video calls, and a lot of patience, I would not have had such a positive and beneficial experience.”
Anna was very fortunate to still be able to accompany experienced engineers on-site during the various lockdowns and to work alongside them in the office where restrictions permitted. She was exposed to the workings of the construction industry, and what it takes to deliver structural projects of various sizes in partnership with other consulting disciplines. “Being a part of the evolve team meant that I was able to collaborate with fantastic engineers on many varied and interesting projects. I attended numerous site visits and was thrilled to even go up in a cherry picker on one occasion!”
What surprised Anna was how much she managed to achieve over those 11 months. “I feel so much more capable now; tasks that would have initially taken me a week, were taking just a day by the end. It was amazing see how much confidence I gained in my work, so much so that I was eager to pass on as much knowledge as I could to the new graduate engineer and placement student who were starting as I was preparing to leave.”
She also had the opportunity to get involved with the business development side of the company, by helping to devise and launch internal site photo and sketch competitions – thereby encouraging her colleagues to further embrace the arts of sketching and photography while creating the opportunity to promote and share their work with a wider audience on social media. Anna also helped establish the company’s Instagram account in early 2021.
The obvious advantage of completing an extended placement is having the opportunity to take engineering principles you learn about at university and to place them into context on a wide variety of real-life projects. Anna found it fascinating to see how the team of qualified engineers put strategies in place to determine how to approach tasks, tackle problems, and create design solutions. In turn, she is now eager to see how she can try to adopt and apply those same methods herself, especially when it comes to her final year university design projects.
Keen to emphasise how beneficial her time in the workplace has been, Anna says: “My placement has challenged and educated me in ways in which my university course is limited. I feel that everyone considering a career in engineering should complete a year in industry if they can. It is a great space to learn on the job, make mistakes, and be guided by an experienced team that equip you for your final year of studies, whilst still contributing to the overall aim of becoming a chartered engineer.”
Director Martyn Perkins adds, “It was an absolute pleasure to have had Anna with us at Evolve and we have no doubt that she will excel in her final year of study. As an employer, it is fantastic to hear just how much of an impact you can have on a student’s future career, just by opening your doors and providing a warm and welcoming environment for them to collaborate and flourish, soaking in the knowledge and experience of those around them. Anna was a wonderful addition to the team and will make a wonderful engineer in the not-too-distant future.”