Francesca Hawes, BEng (Hons) Building Services Engineering
Although many students follow a more traditional route of undertaking a degree after completing their A-levels or BTEC, such a path isn’t right for everyone
After finishing her A-levels, Francesca felt that she would be better served by moving into employment and studying while she earned. “I spent two weeks at Troup Bywaters + Anders as part of my work experience placement in school which I really enjoyed. I looked at various options but without doubt the training scheme they offered was the ideal solution for me,” she says.
Mechanical design team
Francesca now works as part of their mechanical design team, designing heating, cooling and ventilation systems for new and existing hospitals including Papworth, Luton & Dunstable and Chase Farm. “My role includes completing design calculations to ensure we are meeting the requirements of the building and creating drawings using Computer Aided Design ,” she says.
“I’ve worked at Troup Bywaters + Anders for three years now, and attend LSBU one day a week as part of my training programme,” says Francesca. “So far I’ve studied thermofluids, refrigeration, electrical installation and energy systems. I’ve also worked in a group to design an office building.”
Trainees are seen as an integral part of the workforce at Troup Bywaters + Anders, something which Francesca feels gives her a great chance of success. “We’re all seen as equal, and everyone has the same opportunities,” she says. “We work in small groups, which means we are able to learn from senior engineers, associate and partners. Trainees also mentor the newest intake of apprentices and trainees, which means we develop managerial skills as well.”
The experience that Francesca is gaining at Troup Bywaters + Anders will complement the formal qualifications she is working towards at LSBU. “Employer-sponsored study is supporting my career as I’m able to gain the experience I need to become a Chartered Engineer at the same time as gaining the academic qualifications I need,” she says. “If I was to join the company as a graduate, I would need a further five years’ experience before reaching chartered status, so it would take a lot longer to get to where I want to be.”
Being chartered means a lot to me and my career and I’ll be able to get there quicker than a more traditional graduate route, so I can work my way up the company sooner.
Although enrolling on a training programme is a quicker way to achieve Chartered Engineer status, it is not without its demands. “Studying part-time can be difficult, especially when it comes to time management,” says Francesca. "Juggling work, university and a social life can be tough, and sometimes the social life does have to take a back seat. If you intend to work and study part-time, you must be willing to put the time in. You can’t leave things to the last minute, and have to plan your diary to make sure you fit everything in!”
At the same time, Francesca acknowledges that there are benefits to having access to an experienced technical team at work while studying part-time. “There are many benefits to it,” she admits. “Senior engineers and the partners will always help me with technical understanding if I am struggling with a section of the course, and my employer also allows me to have access to software that is needed to complete my course.”
It’s that ability to combine practical understanding with theoretical study that Francesca credits as being most important in her study. “As I progress in my career, it will enable me to have a better understanding of complex systems, and the ability to help and mentor others,” she says. “This will also give me the managerial skills to become an associate in the near future.”
Making a difference
That’s just as well, because Francesca is determined to work her way up at Troup Bywaters + Anders. “Ultimately, I want to progress to partner level,” she says. “My Chartered Engineer status will help me to achieve that – and more – and it is a great feeling knowing that the healthcare work I am designing will make a difference to communities.”
Read an interview with Neil Weller, Managing Partner of Troup Bywaters + Anders on the importance of training schemes to the company, or read more about studying BEng (Hons) Building Services Engineering.