In his first student editor blog, University of Portsmouth engineering geology and geotechnics student Harry Hooper gives his perspective on what ground engineering as a career can offer.
It’s easy to forget that nearly everyone in the industry has been in my position, so I hope my perspective can prove relatable and refreshing to many professionals as well as current students reading this.
My initial feelings before entering the workforce include excitement, optimism and apprehension. Why? Personally, I have very mixed feelings about the future in general, whether it pertains to work, social or home life.
It is clear that the next 5-10 years of my life will be a period that will shape my future more than any other, and that will be the case for many other students in my position. The pressures of my degree, graduate job applications, living arrangements and of course the ongoing external economic issues are affecting everyone.
These days, it is essential to find a career that is rewarding and practical, and I believe a career in the Ground Engineering industry provides you with just that. There is so much to look forward to! The construction and renewable energy sectors are flourishing amid substantial infrastructure development. These projects will potentially provide opportunities for students and people in early careers like me after graduation.
choosing to study geotechnical
The construction industry alone employs around 7% of the total UK workforce, and scrolling through platforms such as LinkedIn and company websites, there appears to be an endless list of graduate jobs available.
If industry works on encouraging students from further education into higher education or degree apprenticeships, it can help fill vacancies and future-proof the industry.
On 7 December 2022, I attended the New Civil Engineer Tunneling Awards in London. After several conversations with people in the civil engineering industry about students and early careers, the overall consensus seemed to be that there should be a collective focus from all areas of ground engineering on increasing the number of highly skilled professionals, promoting the youth of the industry . people and motivate them to attend university.
In my opinion, the focus should be on informing pupils in secondary education and sixth formers about the opportunities within ground engineering. From my own personal experience, it never occurred to me that a career in ground engineering was an option until I reached the age of 20. I don’t know specifically why this was other than the fact that I was never exposed to the idea of it.
So, how did I get into this? I was actually quite lucky, because after my A-levels I didn’t know what career to choose. Coincidentally, my neighbor had a successful career as a geotechnical engineer/consultant, and he informed me of the career options offered by the ground engineering industry. After that I started researching different degrees which would be most beneficial to study.
The BEng (Hons) Engineering Geology and Geotechnics / Earth Science course at the University of Portsmouth caught my attention because of its industrial placement scheme, location, reputation and employability rate. My choices became more concrete after the UK government emphasized the importance of roles in the Earth Science sector for the future energy transition and the sustainability of human interaction with the natural environment.
This particular course is well known within the industry and is one of only two courses that offer Engineering Geology and Geotechnical at undergraduate level (along with the BSc program at the University of Exeter). It is accredited by the Geological Society of London, and graduates are not required to study a master’s degree, thereby reducing the cost of tuition fees. The university has been teaching engineering geology and geotechnical engineering to students for more than 50 years.
However, as impressive as the course is, it doesn’t have an annual cohort of students anywhere near that amount, and from my experience, this is because not enough people know about it when applying to university.
So, why the apprehension?
I think that no matter what profession or industry you are in, there is no way to avoid fear, but it is how you address it that prevents negative consequences.
Four fears of the future that have affected me personally: fear of the unknown, fear of disappointment, fear of rejection, and, what affects me personally the most, is the fear of letting other people down. This may be due to the transition from youth to adulthood, moving into more “adult” responsibilities than what you knew as a student.
So, what do I do to reduce these feelings? I aspire to create a future that I have less doubt about and I aim to be more inspired and optimistic.
I want to prepare myself as best as possible, putting myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone. This includes a 44-week placement with Geotechnical and Environmental Associates (GEA). It has already proven to be enjoyable and rewarding, as I have gained real experience in the industry I aspire to be involved in, addressing my fear of the unknown and fear of disappointment.
I have the mindset to apply for any opportunity that is presented to me, because it can only prove beneficial even if I experience rejection. It is important to remember that rejection is not a bad thing if you learn from it.
Reaching out to professionals in the industry is something no student should be afraid to do. So what if they don’t respond? In some cases, they may actually enjoy talking to you!
As the Ground Engineering industry is very closely linked, I have found it essential to use LinkedIn. Building relationships and talking to people has given me a lot of career insight. The benefits of networking also became apparent when I attended the NCE Tunneling Awards.
I would really like to emphasize how much the placement has influenced my ambitions to be successful. It has completely changed my perspective from looking at my career as “just a job”. Seriously, it has affected my work ethic. We all know what going to university can be like: 3am alarms and 4am bedtimes. I feel more prepared for my final year, and I’m extremely excited and looking forward to applying for my graduate jobs! Since taking my first steps in the industry, I feel a lot less apprehensive than I did six months ago.