February 14, 2022

An Interview with James Robinson

An Interview with James Robinson

Hi, my name is James Robinson, I am an Undergraduate Civil Engineer Apprentice with EDF Energy, working on Hinkley Point C, one of the largest construction projects in Europe. I am excited to become a Saint Ambassador and hopefully pass on some advice from my experiences so far in the industry.

How does your organisation help the construction industry?

The construction of Hinkley Point C began in 2016, scheduled to last until 2026 where the scheduled date for electricity generation is June 2026. This project timescale provides great training opportunities, with EDF has committed to creating 1000 apprenticeships, as well as helping local businesses by awarding lots of contracts in the south-west region. 

On Hinkley point, there are industry leading technologies being used to ensure the essential nuclear quality is achieved, and this is something that the wider industry can learn from.

Hinkley point C utilises the pre-fabrication and pre-cast method of construction to speed up the construction process on large parts of the project, this helps guarantee quality because sections of buildings can be constructed in a controlled environment, making quality control easier and more efficient.

How does your role within the organisation help the industry?

There is a huge skills shortage within the civil engineering and construction industry due to an aging workforce, (20% of UK construction workers are over fifty, with 15% now in their sixties). The UK Government completed a study that revealed 186,000 engineers are needed every year through to 2024. As a result, the government has invested a lot of time and money into developing and promoting different routes into the construction industry, including the apprenticeship route. 

The apprenticeship route is the route I chose because I wanted to learn on the job, earn money but also gain a degree and with Hinkley Point C near to home, I decided to apply to EDF for their apprenticeship programme. 

What are the most positive things about working in your organisation?

Hinkley Point C is a very exciting project to be a part of, and my rotation placements allows me to experience a very wide variety of activities in the construction industry before deciding where I would like to specialise. For example, I have experienced work on the Nuclear Island including civils and welding activities, tunnelling underneath the Bristol channel and the early design stages of buildings at Edvance UK. Each placement I have completed has given me new skills and opened my eyes to a different aspect of civil engineering which will stand me in good stead on completion of my degree. I am able to work with lots of different people during each placement, building new working relationships and learning different ways of completing tasks to get a desired outcome.

Tell us about your first day at your organisation.

All new EDF graduates and apprentices start with the company by attending a 5-day induction week at their residential training centre Cannington Court. This is a very informative introduction to the company, where we learnt about all the business areas of EDF and made connections with lots of different people, some of which I’m still in contact with now and even work with!

How did you get into the construction industry?

I was given the opportunity to complete a work experience placement at Arup, Bristol in 2016. Arup are a multinational consultancy company, working across all aspects of engineering. Whilst I was on this work experience, I was able to have discussions with different people in all disciplines, and was particularly interested in the Civil Engineer’s stories about the different projects around the world that they were involved in. I subsequently completed a placement with Keir Construction on site in 2017 at a college expansion in Bristol. I shadowed the Site Engineers and the Project Manager to learn a little bit about what goes into delivering a project on site, and a few of the challenges they were facing at the time. This ignited my passion for the construction industry, and was set on working as civil engineer thereon in. After my two work experience placements, I took Maths, Physics and Business Studies at A-level with the plan to take an apprenticeship in Civil Engineering.

I am now enrolled on a degree apprenticeship with EDF, where I work on a rotational programme at Hinkley Point C and study part time at Exeter University on a block release programme. This is a 5-year course, and I am currently coming to the end of my 3rd year at University. The apprenticeship has been a great introduction into the industry due to the rotational nature of the scheme, teaching me so much on site and at University.

During my second year, I completed a Level 4 Construction Site Engineering Technician qualification and was admitted as a technician engineer with the ICE, EngTech. I am now studying for my degree, with the ambition of applying for Incorporated Engineer with the ICE once I gain this qualification. 

Do you have a mentor? What have you learnt?

As soon as I was offered the job with EDF, I was put in contact with someone already enrolled on the course. He was in his 2nd year at the time (Now in his 5th) and so was able to offer me help and answer any questions I had before and during the scheme, to do with work, University, and anything in-between. This was very useful and comforting to hear this information from someone who had gone through exactly what I was going to and eased my nerves going into the job.

EDF assigned me a Career Manager as well, who is able to help me through the apprenticeship programme and offer me advice and guide when it comes to choices about my career post-graduation.  We have a great relationship and therefore we can have honest and open conversations about my career progression and areas of personal development.

James Robinson
EDF Energy

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