Written By Carl Abiador
On the first day, we were openly welcomed by a British Land representative. Alan Bunting, funder of British Land, gave us a tour of the site, Sheldon Square and Kingdom Street, and introduced us to the ethos of British Land, which is Places, People, Prefer. Through the development in Paddington, they aim to redefine Paddington not only as a transport hub, but also as a destination. This key idea revolved around our project until the last day of the workshop.
“This was a completely new experience for me, at first I thought that constructing a building was simple, however after Alan, the British land funder, took us around and spoke about the construction my eyes were opened to the real world. I was amazed by all the work that has to be put into a construction in order for it to be successful.”
We were then introduced to different professionals that embodies the construction industry ranging from quantity surveyors, mechanical and electrical engineer, structural engineers, construction manager, and architects from different companies. We were given the opportunity to interview these professionals and extract as much information as we can that will be beneficial for us.
“I took the chance to speak to them about how they got into this career and what qualifications or pathway we need to take”.
They emphasized how teamwork and at the same time independence are much needed skills to reach the position that they are in now. Additionally, they stressed: “experience in a workplace is very important not only for your CV but also for your learning stages in life”. They told us how they branched out to different options such as contacting construction companies for a work experience alongside their education.
“ I was also given the chance to ask a question which gave me a greater knowledge about careers in industry based around design.”
“A lifetime opportunity to interview a group of engineers who work for the construction site. I was able to find out the grades you need to get into a certain career.”
Gavin Williams, the head construction manager started working on his loft at the age of 14. Ross Wilkinson, mechanical and structural engineer, didn’t had any A levels, but instead had work experiences, apprenticeships, and got into construction through a scheme. On the other hand, Alex Groot, structural engineer, had his qualifications from Cambridge University. This shows the different mixture of pathways that landed them to their positions. However, they still emphasized how qualifications are very vital yet reminded us that experience pushes us further into the industry.
“What I liked about this day is that I was able to gain more confidence in speaking to people with a profession as well as being able to gather information from them about careers.”
The remaining hours of the day was spent fitting in high visibility vests, helmets, gloves, glasses, and boots; 5 PPE, a jargon in construction. We then toured in the construction site of 4 Kingdom Street with Uwe Switala, a member of M3 Consulting. He explained the construction process of the building ranging from the materials and logistics. He told us how materials are measured in packages, and also how ventilation and other utilities work above the ceiling. He also showed us two gigantic water tanks to be used in the building. We then went back to the offices under the makeshift podium to return our 5 PPE to conclude the day.
“What I liked about the day is that I was able to gain an insight on what work is like in this industry and gained knowledge of the steps I would need to take in order to get certain jobs.”
The second day started off when we arrived at Imperial College’s Skempton Building in South Kensington, London. The building has its very own design and engineering department. A huge block of space dedicated to huge machineries about three stories high. This initially gave us a real feel of the industry.
Daevon greted us with a warm welcome then we initially cracked on with the first activity. St George’s was mixed with City of Westminster College and QK. We were then separated into four groups.
“I can say working with strangers is a challenge. You don’t know any of their strengths and weaknesses.”
It became apparent when we had to talk through the task. However all of us knew that at some point we have to talk and eventually everyone opened up. This resulted to some good ideas flooding the table.
“At first I was nervous because I wasn’t confident enough to speak in front of everyone.”
The task includes us designing 5 Kingdom Street, the neighbouring building of 4 Kingdom Street. We had to think about designing a structure that will harmonize with West Way, the neighbouring buildings, National Railway tracks, and the geography of the place. These elements were hurdles but we got our way around it and eventually finalized with a building that it sustainable and well thought out.
“This task helped me mix with other people out of my school and it helped me build my confidence.”
The next challenge came when we had to make a prototype of our design. The activity resembled so much like the industry since we need to buy our materials and had a strict budget. We had to make the design become a possibility yet factors such as budget and structure became an apparent hurdle. However, something good came out of this. It made the team better when different ideas started to flow. Ideas to make the building stand and at the same time reflect the initial drawing came out of the group. Everyone in the group started talking and at the same time making compromises in order for our building to become a possibility. In the end, we managed to create our towers.
“It showed me how a group of different students with different talents and different type of confidence come together to present something. It also gave me a taste of the real world.”
Our last day we got suited and booted. We started off again in Imperial College with our separate groups. The aim for the day is to deliver a concise, well thought out, and fluid speech. We had to gain the interest of the panel which consisted of high ranking professionals from companies such as British Land and M3 consulting. We had to give it our best shot since the pitch itself doesn’t only reflect what we’ve been working hard over the last two days, but it’s also a showcase of our teamwork and our skill to speak in public.
Each group’s presentation was stressful, yet it went very well. Everyone gave their best shot and acted professionally. Group 1’s hardwork, which included Carl and Claudio, was rewarded when they won the pitch. However this wasn’t the grand prize. The greatest reward we could ever achieve from that workshop is getting a work experience and the only way to achieve is through a job interview.
“I had interviews before but being interviewed by a professional which is clearly more experienced than you gave me the chills”
We can feel the adrenaline rushing through our veins. However, we realized that these people that will bombard us with questions are humans too. Eventually, the interview process felt like it was you and another person having coffee together. It was calm yet it pulls out what’s inside of you. The questions make you think and at the same time allows you to give yourself a chance to show off. This should not be taken lightly as it is a competition with others as well. However as someone being interviewed, posture and eye contact isn’t the only thing that’s important, but also being true to yourself.
“It felt like an actual job interview in the real world especially because I was talking to a professional in the industry”.
We concluded the day after the interview. Everyone felt the relief and that the interview was a breeze.
“Personally, I never knew I could learn and experience so much in a span of three days. The whole workshop was a learning experience. It made me think of what lies ahead of me and the necessary steps that I have to take to reach the place that I aspire to be in the future.”
“I got to meet amazing, talented people. I was able to see the real world and decide if I really want to get into the construction industry and believe me, I am now more interested in construction”.
“Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the construction youth project and I think it has highly benefitted both my knowledge and interest on the construction industry”.
Now, being back in school, we wait patiently for that red dot on our email, hoping that we got ourselves the work experience. Fingers crossed.