Alex Skill, BA Geography with Transport Planning (Industrial) at the University of Leeds

Alex Skill

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for AECOM, a multinational engineering infrastructure services firm that design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organisations in more than 150 countries. AECOM are fully integrated and multi-disciplinary, working in various markets on a range of high profile projects such as HS2, Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Qatar 2022 World Cup and many more.  

What is your role within the company?

My role is as an intern within the Development Planning team in the field of transportation business. The Development Planning team look at transport related impacts of developments (such as new housing estates, schools, shopping centres, masterplans etc.) and considers matters of road safety, trip generation and the impact on the local highway network. My role is to assist and support the Development Planning team with project work by providing design and planning advice. 

Can you give an insight into a typical day?

My day is often very varied, although typical roles and responsibilities include writing reports for planning applications, analysing data, modelling local traffic junctions using industry standard software, designing junctions, and producing accurate and effective drawings using CAD. I also have to liaise with various clients, developers and stakeholders via email and telephone to gain relevant information and keep them updated. 

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

What I enjoy the most about my role is the satisfaction of completing a large piece of project work where I know I have made a positive contribution to society. I thoroughly enjoy working on exciting and challenging mega projects. The most notable project I am working on is phase 2b of High Speed 2 (HS2), the biggest and most ambitious infrastructure project in the UK. I also enjoy getting my teeth into smaller projects such as new housing estates, where I know I make a greater impact on the project. 

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I wanted to take a year in industry because it is a fantastic opportunity to gain industry experience whilst developing my skills and giving me the platform to impress my employers and solidify my career ambitions. Having relevant industry experience is critical in today’s competitive graduate market, so taking the chance to gain experience with a high profile company was an easy decision to make. In addition to boosting my job prospects and earning a respectable salary, taking a year out from university has made me more determined to have a successful and rewarding final year. 

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far? 

I have only been in my position for 6 weeks, but I already feel like I have massively developed and matured as a person; it’s amazing how working in a professional environment has changed my mind-set and made me more determined to succeed! In addition to learning industry knowledge and developing a host of relevant skills I have made good friends who I can socialise with both in and away from work. I have also gained a good insight into the company, which looking forward is important as it allows me to decide if I could see myself working at AECOM when I start to apply for graduate schemes, while having the chance to impress my employees.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

I would definitely recommend doing a year in industry to any student who is determined to succeed! However, I think it is important to choose your placement and company carefully. Choose a placement or job role which you can see yourself having a future career in and a company who you believe can meet your expectations, develop your skills and knowledge, and get you involved in projects. Choosing a large company is not necessarily always the best, you may have greater responsibility and more exposure to certain tasks working at a smaller company. Having said that, it is also important to choose a company which you believe you can impress and see a potential future job in at the end of the placement. 

I would recommend not rushing into the first placement opportunity that comes available, bide your time and weigh up your options. I would also advise students to choose carefully where your placement is located, as it is important to feel comfortable and enjoy where you live/work!