James Collins

I have been at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) since October 2009. I am an Assistant Transportation Planner and part of a team that offers transport planning consultancy services to clients. Initially, I worked at our Godalming office for 2 and a half months on various projects for the Highways Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority.

I was then seconded at the Highways Agency for 15 months where I was responsible for reviewing planning applications based on the impact of development on Highway Agency roads in Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex. I also reviewed Local Development Frameworks and Local Travel Plans for those regions. The outcome of these reviews would be to draft letters on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport for civil servants to sign off. My time there gave me the opportunity to experience working for the public sector.

I have now relocated to Manchester. This is part of a new two man team giving the company a transport planning presence in the North. For now, I am likely to be taking on a variety of tasks, supporting the other offices, winning new work and breaking into emerging markets. The ambition is for the team to grow and hopefully get a few graduates from ITS!

"During my time at ITS I learnt skills useful to my job that made me employable. Having taken the Sustainable Land Use and Transport module run by Dr. Greg Marsden, I was able to immediately relate to the Highways Agency side of PB's work during my job interview and subsequently got the job".

Once in my role, it took me a lot less time to get to grips with the work I was asked to perform.

I was awarded the grade and pay of an Assistant which is the next level up, yet they identified my inexperience in other areas and subsequently, I am also on the graduate programme to support my development on the business side of things. My secondment at the Highways Agency was arranged after 2 months rather than waiting 1-2 years as had been the norm for past new starters.

"ITS brought me both knowledge and confidence and an ability to present information of technical and non-technical nature both verbally and written. This is the result of the course leaders encouraging a professional and social atmosphere, between both students and lecturers too."

I have kept in touch with numerous other ITS students and retaining this network could also be helpful for the future. Already I am texting an ex-ITS student at TfL whenever I want to know what is going on over there! "Being an ITS graduate is also a badge of honour amongst other ex-students and sharing good memories of some of the legendary lecturers has always been a good ice-breaker!"

Following my dissertation ITS invited me to present it at the World Conference on Transport Research in Lisbon. PB was pleased that I'd arranged to get involved so paid my fare and it was a great experience.

I had decided on Transport Planning because the career path interested me. "I researched the course and spoke to a few employers and it became clear that Leeds was the stand out choice as an excellent course with a lot of variety." The social aspect such as the field trips also appealed. I think the key thing was that ITS is not part of any other university department (i.e. Geography or Engineering) but is its own discipline.

As well as focusing on passing the course, constantly working hard, collecting your degree certificate and getting a job, I would say make plenty of space for social occasions. Whatever your interests or background ITS has a great inclusive atmosphere. So work hard, play hard and come to the end of the year you'll have learnt a lot, gained some lifelong friends who could also become great professional contacts in the future as most are about to enter the same career path.