The Big Picture
During her BSc Physics degree, Lesley completed a one-week micro-placement with Balfour Beaty working for their client, the National Grid, on the Hinkley Point C project in Bristol. She graduated from University of Leeds in July 2022, and started a role with Atkins as a Graduate Safety and Reliability Engineer, within the Nuclear & Power team, which is also based in Bristol.
The placement involved working on the Hinkley Point project to join the site to the National Grid, connecting nuclear power to 6 million homes, installing new T pylons and replacing some which were outdated. Lesley was involved in a number of site visits during her placement where she learned technical knowledge as she carried out a number of site visits and saw how the pylons were installed and understood the process.
The Application Process
Lesley attended a number of career fairs whilst at university, she was interested in companies which had Energy and Nuclear based roles and spoke to a number of different employers at these events. Atkins particularly appealed so she started researching the company and the projects they worked on further. The application process took place via the Atkins website and Lesley felt that this process was very positive and smooth, better than the other firms she applied for.
“It was a really pleasant process…it was extremely professional and organised. It was clear they had thought through the entire application process very carefully & put themselves in the applicants shoes. They also provided as much guidance as possible, which made it exceptionally smooth sailing.”
There were three parts to applying: the first was a detailed application form and CV submission, next was an interview with two engineers, which lasted an hour, where she was asked direct questions about the role, for example to define safety cases and other nuclear safety concepts. The last part of the application involved an assessment centre, where she and other applicants had to carry out a group project, this took place over zoom.
“The assessment centre sounded really intimidating, but it wasn’t at all.”
“Atkins is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies. Collaborating with clients, we’re driven to make our world a better place. We also strive to make a difference in the way we work, from supporting the STEM skills agenda to setting standards as an employer of choice.” – Atkins
Day to Day
Lesley said it was easy to settle in and despite starting recently Atkins already had a project lined up for her which was on a different aspect of the Hinkley Point C project.
“The work experience that I set up whilst I was at University really helped me settle into this, it gave me an overview and understanding of different sectors of a project.”
The Learning Curve
Lesley studied physics initially as it meant she could go into various careers, such as finance, banking, IT or engineering. The work experience at Balfour Beaty confirmed to her that she definitely wanted to go into energy-related engineering. Whilst on her placement, Lesley saw different aspects of the projects and the roles she could go into. She felt that her placement helped her settle in at Atkins as she had this overview and awareness.
Whilst at Atkins, she says by interacting with multiple people from different teams and taking initiative to ask questions, she’s quickly gained a better understanding of the projects which she is working on.
“Always take the initiative to ask people for help, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to do things.”
In the short space of time Lesley has been at Atkins, she’s done a lot of learning into the different parts of power plants, how they work and their safety functions.
The Physics Connection
In both her work placement and graduate role Lesley has used a number of skills from her Physics degree. She was able to transfer her skills and knowledge of Excel which she used within her Experimental Module at university and also the reporting writing and data analysis which she used across her course has also been utilised within her placement and graduate role.
“My university experience & micro placement gave me the soft & hard skills I needed to start my professional career.”
“My biggest issue was my lack of confidence in my abilities… I panicked that I wouldn’t have the right technical knowledge or the skills but since doing the work experience, & simply diving into the working world, I’ve settled in completely fine. In fact, I’m not sure why I doubted myself in the first place! My best advice would be to have faith in your abilities & if you don’t know something, just show your willingness to learn!”
The Next Step
Lesley wants to continue in her current job role for the next 3 years as she’s part of the graduate scheme. She is keen to stay in the company and Nuclear energy sector, whilst progressing her charter-ship goals. Atkins is very flexible in terms of being able to pick up multiple projects so she is able to expand her knowledge, skills and expertise. Lesley’s advice to graduates looking for work experience is:
“You don’t have to do a placement for 2 months or a whole year, for me I just did a one-week experience with Balfour Beauty where I got workplace awareness and understood how projects work and that helped me land a graduate role in Atkins.”