My early memories of waiting to board buses with my family in rural Scotland helped sow the seeds for a career in transport planning. I remember waiting for a long time for buses to arrive when I was growing up, being crammed on board and seeing parents with buggies not being able to get on. Even as a child, I realised that this cannot be right.
Fast forward several years and I’m now in my second year at AECOM, one of the first cohort of ‘trailblazer apprenticeships’ launched by the last Government.
Trailblazer apprenticeships aim to better align the needs of employers with academic institutions and should help to improve the image of apprentices.
I decided to take the apprenticeship route while at college in Bedfordshire studying towards three A levels in business studies, accountancy and law. I was unsure if classroom-based study was quite right for me and I was struggling to work out what job I eventually wanted to do.
While looking at a Government careers website, I spotted the words ‘transport planning’ in a list promoting apprenticeships. I thought back to my early memories of travel in Scotland and decided that this was the one for me. After registering my interest online, I soon received an email from AECOM inviting me for an interview.
Since joining AECOM, I have worked on a range of interesting projects from a capacity assessment scheme for the M11 near Cambridge for Highways England, to helping to develop transport and development plans for Hertfordshire County Council.
I have engaged in consultations and have been growing my understanding of how the road networks come together. Before I joined I didn’t realise there was so much planning that goes into highways.
My day-to-day tasks include producing GIS software models, collating reports and maps and promoting cycling initiatives. I’ve also attended workshops with councillors and spoken to children in schools about what a career in transportation entails.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a field trip funded by AECOM to Germany and the Netherlands to learn about their transport infrastructure. My biggest takeaway from the trip was how much both countries prioritise transport, with a range of initiatives to ease congestion such as double decker trains and great cycling networks.
I went on site visits and talked to developers to understand the transport needs of the countries we visited. Other highlights include meeting HRH The Princess Royal during her visit to my last residential in Leeds for college – she asked us all about our apprenticeships and how we were getting on.
Another opportunity I have had at AECOM is to be part of an employee engagement and retention group that listens to the voices of people across the company to figure out how to do things better. I feel that being part of that group makes me feel valued and shows that my opinion is valid.
I am fortunate to be shadowing Kate Morris, director of strategic planning and advisory at AECOM, during National Apprenticeship Week and I look forward to learning from her.
My two-year apprenticeship is approaching its final few months and I have an ambition to do a degree through AECOM while continuing to work her.
That would mean me working in the office four days a week and studying Geography at university one day a week. It just goes to show that you don’t have to pick between doing an apprenticeship and doing a degree – the world is your oyster.
My advice to new apprenticeships would be to take everything on board and ask for help when you need it. And of course, stay on top of your assignments.