January 17, 2022

An interview with Samuel Cartledge

An interview with Samuel Cartledge

My name is Samuel Cartledge and I work for Laing O’Rourke which is the largest privately owned construction companies in the UK who deliver state of the art infrastructure and buildings for clients in the UK, Middle East and Australia. I first discovered the company during a Careers Fair at London Olympia where I met several members of staff who described the companies’ objectives of becoming the recognised leader for innovation and excellence in the construction industry. Laing O’Rourke was formed in 2001 by combining the construction experience of John Laing Plc (formed in 1848) with the concrete knowledge of R O’Rourke & Son. The company has a reputation for adapting their business model to assist our clients meeting their desired outcomes with certainty.

Laing O’Rourke is a vital part of the construction industry, placing significant emphasis on off site manufacture which reduces costs and programme time. The company uses a fully integrated Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) business model to deliver solutions for some of the worlds most complex projects. The Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction (CEMC) was constructed in Worksop to provide the business with one of the most advanced concrete product facilities in Europe, with the 9000 square metre space having produced products for over 350 UK projects to date. I am very proud to work for such a major construction company who strives to improve the industry by utilising an innovative approach to enhancing the quality of our projects and ensuring that all those involved remain safe during all our works. 

East West Rail

In particular, I work on the East West Rail project which is working to re-introduce the railway network between Oxford and Cambridge. EWR Alliance, made up of Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and Volker Rail, was formed in 2015 to delivery phase 2 of the project between Bicester and Bletchley. Since joining the company in September 2019, I have worked in Section 2C which involves the partial reconstruction of Bletchley Flyover (BFO). The BFO consists of 37 reinforced concrete spans and is approximately 605m long, with 17 spans needing to be replaced due to them containing half joints which are difficult to maintain. These joints are not easily accessible for inspection or maintenance and have a history of catastrophic failure. I have been involved in a wide range of activities since starting my career with Laing O’Rourke which includes haul road construction, Continuous Flight Auger & Sectional Flight Auger Piling, reinforcement installation, buried service diversions among others. I am very proud of what I have worked on so far in my career and look forward to the future in different aspects of the industry.

Best part of the programme

The best part of the past 2 years has been the amazing support that I have received from my colleagues and wider network in both Laing O’Rourke and Exeter University. I joined the company directly from completing my A Levels with little knowledge of the construction industry and found the first few months difficult due to my lack of experience. The team that I work alongside are some of the most genuine, kind and supportive group of people from a wide range of backgrounds which has made my first couple of years in the industry so enjoyable. From my Line Managers, LOR buddy, colleagues and site personnel, everyone has been unbelievably supportive and understanding of my experience level. Everyone has made an effort to support me, from developing my knowledge of key engineering principles or construction methodologies to supporting me through my EngTech application. I feel extremely lucky to of worked alongside these amazing people and have learnt so much from them all.

What do I do?

I am currently completing a Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship in Civil Engineering with Site Management at Exeter University. I complete my studies on a block release basis whereby I work for 6 weeks followed by a 2 week block at University. I felt the apprenticeship was the best way for me to learn and develop as a Civil Engineer as it allowed me to gain on the job learning whilst completing my studies. I am able to work with experienced engineers who pass on their knowledge and expertise which I have found to be very beneficial. I benefit from ongoing and personalised support from both the university and my colleagues which enables me to develop my knowledge and skills at an enhanced rate. I will gain recognised qualifications which include BEng degree and also accreditation with the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) which will progress my career further whilst allowing me to put my knowledge into practice on site. The programme has provided me with opportunities to further develop my skills through completing case studies on Machine Control technology which developed my report writing whilst also my communication skills. I have thoroughly enjoyed the first 2 years of the programme and extremely recommend this route for anyone looking at Civil Engineering as a career.

First day - mentor

Upon the completion of my A Levels and being accepted onto the programme, I was told that I had been placed on EWR Section 2C as detailed above. Laing O’Rourke had arranged for a 3 day induction to detail the programme structure/requirements, meet our cohort and also network with senior individuals in the business. These few days were extremely beneficial for me as I was able to gain contacts with individuals who have since been very beneficial in my development. This led me nicely into my first day on the project which I was very nervous about. My nerves were quickly put at ease with my LOR buddy being on site to greet me when I arrived and then introduce me to the rest of the team. I feel that this buddy scheme with an individual in a further year of the same programme was extremely beneficial as they understood what I was going through and were there as a support throughout the early stages of my time on East West Rail. I was particularly lucky to of been paired with my buddy, Lucy who went the extra mile to ensure I was comfortable and understood the project and organised my inductions and training that I would need. I hope that one day I can repay this to someone starting off in the industry and provide them the support that I received.

How did I get into the construction industry?

During my early years of Secondary School, I completed several different pieces of work experience to acertain the career path that most suited my interests. This included a weeks experience at an architects firm whereby I was able to develop my skills at reading drawings followed by a weeks experience at a BAM construction site where I followed a Site Engineer and Construction Manager. From studying STEM subjects at both GCSE and A Level, I felt that a career in engineering was the right thing for my interests. In particular, the problem solving aspect of engineering was of interest to me whilst the fact that the industry is so broad means there will be a wide range of career opportunities available. Furthermore, the possibility to work abroad was extremely exciting after I had just completed a month long expedition to Cambodia in the Summer of 2018. It afforded me the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of how small engineering projects can have huge impact on local communities and also allowed me to develop skills in communication and problem solving. During this time, I completed various projects in the local communities including the construction of a chicken coup for a lady who was extremely poor and several water wells for a local village. It was a very beneficial experience and made me realise the importance of both small and large scale engineering projects. Civil Engineering is all about creating infrastructure that will benefit the local community and this interest was shown during my time in Cambodia.


What has the industry taught you?

I have learnt a lot from my first couple of years on the programme, with my construction knowledge developing significantly due to the wide range of activities that I have been involved with. I have been able to work alongside experienced professionals who have taught me the basics of construction and the processes involved in ensuring that works are completed safely, to programme and to the correct quality. I particularly enjoy the variety of activities that I complete daily, from setting out works on site to writing up paperwork for upcoming works and attending meetings to ensure that all disciplines are involved in the works. No one day is the same and each day is challenging, with a variety of problems to solve. I really enjoy collaborating with colleagues to discuss a problem and then solving it, something that the construction industry is very good at.

What 3 things would you tell your younger self?

Following my first 2.5 years on the programme, I feel that the following areas are things that I would tell myself back on my first day in September 2019:

  • Believe in yourself = one area that I have had to work on is my personal confidence which I struggled with due to my lack of knowledge and experience in the industry. This was particularly difficult as every activity I was completing was completely new and I had to rely on others to help me. I would tell my younger self that everyone understands my experience level and therefore I should have more confidence to express my views even if they are incorrect.
  • Everyone makes mistakes = I struggled to cope when I made mistakes, I would take the issue home with me and worry about the repercussions, even if it was a simple correction and had not changed anything on site.  A key thing to remember is that nobody is perfect and it is only human to make mistakes, with these often being far more beneficial for your development. This process was made easier with the full support of my team but I did find it difficult to move on from mistakes. Whilst mistakes should be avoided, you should take away the positives from the situation and learn from where you went wrong to ensure that you have developed in that area
  • Take all the opportunities you can = Whilst balancing project work, University work and personal life is very difficult, I feel that taking all the opportunities you are offered is crucial to pushing your boundaries and developing as an engineer. I pushed myself to complete a presentation at a Networking event which discussed my time at Laing O’Rourke and what I have learnt so far and whilst this was a significant step in terms of presenting in front of a large audience, I developed my confidence around public speaking and presentation skills. These will be very useful in future career roles as I progress over the years, with communication a vital skill within the construction industry.

What can you see for the future of the industry?

I see the construction industry placing a greater focus on Sustainable construction techniques and placing greater emphasis on ensuring that all construction is completed in an environmentally and ecological way. This will involve greater collaboration between disciplines and utilise DfMA techniques to enhance construction activities. I feel that Laing O’Rourke are in a great place to succeed with this and will drive the industry forward with their existing focus on off site manufacture.

Samuel Cartledge
Site Engineer
Laing O'Rourke
Laing O'Rourke

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