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Theo Wallwork

BEng (Hons) Civil and Structural Engineering
Placement with JN Bentley, Newport (June 2017 – June 2018)

Theo Wallwork

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?

I chose the University of Bradford due to the friendly welcoming atmosphere I experienced during my Open Day visit. Straight off the bat it seemed like a very multi-cultural city where people seemed approachable and happy to help out as much as they could. My original thoughts of the city were that it was a bit run down and neglected compared to the neighbouring cities such as Leeds and Manchester, however, the people made up for this and I soon found the little gems hidden within the city which really gave it a unique and vibrant character.

What I enjoyed most about Bradford was the numerous sports and activities made available to me as a student at such excellent value, and I soon found myself running out of days in the week to fit in all the groups I wanted to get involved with. I also loved how easy it was to go out for an incredible meal and not spend a fortune in the process.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

I always wanted to get into engineering due to my understanding of mathematics and physics and when looking through the different types of engineering, I took a shining towards civil. I guess there was something comforting about working on huge structures as I always get frustrated working with fiddly mechanisms such as bikes. I also wanted to pick a career which I could travel with and was told by friends and family that there are opportunities all over the word for civil engineers. This has become more apparent following my time at university and I have learnt about a whole range of different experiences all around the world ranging from hydraulics in China to transport systems in New Zealand and even humanitarian charity schemes available in India.

What I enjoyed most about the course was the range of teaching styles. Every lecturer is different and communicates their knowledge in their own way. Throughout the year, I found myself attending laboratory sessions, computer based learning, standard lectures, interactive learning, tutorials, workshops and grinding through mathematical questions with fellow students all of which made for a more interesting and stimulating learning environment. The course is mostly examination tested which suits me well, however, there is a good chunk of the course which is coursework and lecturers always have time to sit down and go through something with you one-to-one if you so choose. 

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

The first most important tip I would give any student is to give yourself plenty of time. Attend all the lectures and whenever a piece of coursework is given, note down ideas about it as soon as possible. What I often found is that starting an essay is often the hardest part and this is only made harder as deadlines draw closer.  Once you have an introduction and vague idea of where you are heading with a piece of work it is very easy to read through what information is already there and get in the right mind set to continue from where you left off.

The second most important piece of advice I would offer is to not become a complete book-worm! At university there is some so much information to take in and learn and it is very easy to spend all your time studying and revising, however, this is not healthy mental activity and it can be just as important to take a break from learning and go outside for some fresh air. Challenge yourself and get involved in a new sport that you wouldn’t imagine yourself doing and you’ll feel proud of your achievement and probably meet some new friends along the way.

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff?

From the Career Consultants, I have received excellent support and they really gave me the confidence and correct attitude to excel in an interview. I received advise and comments on my CV and cover letters, as well as mock interviews (these were incredibly helpful) taught me how to answer questions in the correct way to make me stand out from the crowd. Honestly, my first advice to anyone looking for placement or employment would be to go visit the Career and Employability Services and attend the pre-placement lectures as the information they have to share is invaluable towards your employability.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

To help improve my employability during my time at university I have joined the Civil Engineering Society and taken the role of President during my second year there. This role included liaising with companies and inviting guest speakers to talk about the industry. I have also attended the optional lectures hosted at University of Bradford and neighbouring venues such as Leeds; these are often organised by professors working at the university or other professional bodies such as the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) and has widened my knowledge of the industry. This can also count towards your professional development which attributes towards chartership once the degree is complete. Both opportunities have been valuable experiences and I have learnt a lot whilst doing them as well as had a great time. Being on placement also massively prepares you for a job after graduation and has given me a real insight as to what to expect within the industry.

I would advise others looking for a placement role within a company to get in touch with as many companies as possible, as soon as possible. Also, I would say it is most important to be friendly and enthusiastic about your course and the opportunity.  In my experience companies value students who have a desire to learn and gain from the experience more than students with higher grades. I was fortunate enough to receive a placement offer from the first company I applied to and I think this was largely due to my optimism about the course and my excitement to work for the company. Take a few copies of your CV to the Careers Fair!

Tell us about your current placement…

I have started work within JN Bentley as part of the Mott Macdonald Bentley (MMB) partnership on behalf of Welsh Water. I am currently employed as a Site Engineer, however, I have primarily been working with the design teams in the design office. My job role has covered a variety of tasks such as contacting other companies to locate assets within the site ready for excavation, designing manhole and doing various calculations to assess the infiltration rates and hydraulic profiles through the works.

I have learnt huge amounts on placement and acquired a whole new range of skills than what was required at university and has really prepared me for my career as a civil engineer and I have only just started my time with them.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

I will have gained a huge amount of experience and will have a much better understanding of practical engineering being able to apply the theory learnt in lectures to real life situations. I will also have gained some useful graduate contacts to consult and discuss various topics for my dissertation with should I require such assistance. Thirdly I will be much more organised and better at time keeping. Having gotten used to working 7.5 hour days I will find myself with lots of spare time outside of lectures to pursue my research and other interests preparing better for my exams and coursework.