Chris Morgan-Jones was an undergraduate at Loughborough studying Electronic and Electrical Engineering, after looking for a placement that would get him out and about he was successful in securing a Year in Industry (YINI) through EDT to work with Amey.
After having his final year at University sponsored by Amey and successfully securing a role with them after he graduated as an Assistant Design Engineer. Ten years after his placement he is still working within the rail industry as a Scheme Project Manager at Network Rail, and helping mentor other YINI students.
Chris talks about his own experiences and how taking part in the Year in Industry shaped his career and made him see the importance of offering these experiences to encourage fresh talent to join such industries...
My placement experience
I was undertaking a sandwich degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Loughborough University and had almost completed the second year of my degree when I was applying for placements. I was exploring a number of different options and as part of that I registered my interest with YINI.
During the first two years of my degree my interest had swayed more towards the electrical side so I was looking for an electrical power/machines and systems focussed placement rather than pure electronics placement. I wanted to do a placement that involved more than just sitting in front of a computer every day and the rail industry fitted this criteria. Also there are a number of different engineering roles you can undertake in the rail industry and it is an industry where good engineers are in demand.
I really enjoyed my placement with Amey in the design office, especially the variety of activities I got to undertake during the year. It opened my eyes to the potential opportunities as an Engineer, from design, installation and testing to maintenance and management - there are a number of different routes your career can take. In general the staff I worked with were very supportive and keen for me learn and develop. I also got to undertake the Chartered Management Institute Level 3 Certificate in Management during the year, which gave me a good grounding in management and helped me with my “Engineering Project Management” module in my final year at University.
Life after my placement
Amey sponsored my final year at University and offered me a graduate job as an Assistant Design Engineer. I worked in the design office for another year and then moved to the project delivery side, first as an Assistant Project Engineer under the mentorship of a Project Engineer and then as Project Engineer myself with engineers and electricians reporting to me. As a Project Engineer I was specifying and ordering materials from designs, policing the installation (ensuring it was installed to design, standards and regulations) and I was responsible for the testing and hand back. It was an interesting and varied job, with my time was split between the office and site.
After five years I felt that the type of work and the experience I was gaining had plateaued so I started to look for other opportunities. Network Rail were advertising for Scheme Project Managers and I saw an opportunity to gain more experience in Project Management. I have now been a Scheme Project Manager for two years. I have undertaken project management training and I have successfully managed the delivery and hand back of a number of projects. I am now developing a scheme that will be delivered over the next 8 years at an anticipated cost in excess of £280M.
Inspiring the next generation
I think working with placement students is absolutely vital to ensure that we are encouraging fresh talent to join our industries. The rail industry in particular has an aging population, we need to bring in and train more people. I also think it benefits the mentor/line manager as you really have to think about how and why you do things the way you do when explaining them to someone with limited experience. It forces you to re-evaluate how you are working and what you could do better.
Having been a YINI placement student myself I think I have a good understanding of what the placement students would like to get out of the year and the kind of challenges they face. I am an Incorporated Engineer with the IET so I have gone through the professional registration process. I can help students to create development plans and think about how they record evidence that can lead to professional registration in the future.
I have recently signed up to be a STEM Ambassador because I think that we need to encourage more young people into STEM careers and I don’t think there is enough awareness of the breadth of possible career paths that can come from pursuing STEM in higher education. Undertaking a placement with YINI started me on the career path I am on now. The training given alongside the placement was also very useful in my final year at university and in the roles I have undertaken since.