A look back: First year as a graduate Structural Engineer

A look back: First year as a graduate Structural Engineer

First inspired to start a career in structural engineering by working on his parents’ house renovation at age 16, recent graduate Joshua Powell now works as a Structural Engineer at AWA.

Josh spoke enthusiastically about his role, highlighting that he thrives off finding solutions to everyday problems.

He said, “You get such a mixture of different things to work on at AWA, everything from small extensions and domestic projects, all the way up to huge industrial warehouses and football stadiums.”

Working alongside architects, builders and manufacturers requires clear and consistent communication, a skill usually developed over years in the role but something that Josh has taken to naturally.

Josh said, “It’s important to keep lines of communication open at all times because everybody is working towards the same goal.

“Being professional but also working with people in a way that motivates them to perform their best is such a unique thing to tackle. It’s not something you always experience at university either because you’re mainly working by yourself on projects.”

Quickly understanding the value of effective communication was likely to have been helped by Josh supporting his parents’ barn renovation in the year he left school.

He said, “I was heavily involved in the process – it fascinated me how structural problems can be resolved and I enjoyed watching the actual construction take place.”

“Working on site with the team was really what threw me onto my career path. From there, I followed up with maths, physics and chemistry at college and then to university, undertaking my civil engineering degree.”

The University of Southampton graduate has set his sights on chartership, a professional qualification which typically takes between four to eight years to complete.

AWA will be supporting Josh through his chartership. Managing Director, Mark Kent, said, “It’s fantastic that Josh is making plans to become chartered. I have no doubt he will thrive as he has in his role to date, we are looking forward to supporting him to take the next step in his career.”

Josh explained that working for a smaller company like AWA allows you to take on greater responsibilities which gives you experience straight away.

He said, “By everyone knowing each other so well, you help each other on projects and know how to perform. You also gain an understanding of how the company is doing – you can see the impact you’re having on its performance which is rewarding.”

“I’ve had training and support since my first day too. When I started I was put on an AutoCAD training course; I also had steerage towards the steps to take to become chartered, such as when to undergo the project process and what will be included with it.”

“I feel confident they will ensure that I gain the experience I need at every aspect of my projects to check off the criteria which is great.”

Josh’s favourite project to-date is reflective of the work he undertook at his parents’ house eight years ago.

He explained, “It’s a renovation and new build on a manor house which is near to completion. I carried out all the site surveys, organised the investigation works and then designed a new staircase, which is going to be external to the stables as they’re a listed property. It was quite a challenge to find a solution that wouldn’t impact the listed building.”

“There’s also a new-build taking place – they’ve demolished their garage and are building an office in traditional masonry construction. There were a lot of elements to that project that were very new for me and I saw it through from beginning to end which was nice.”

Josh’s advice for someone looking to take the university route to become a structural engineer is to gain as much work experience as possible.

He said, “Every bit of experience you gain in this field really helps gain a better understanding of what you’re doing as a whole.”

“It’s a really interesting and exciting career. By working at AWA the experience you gain will be huge and you’ll be working on a huge variety of projects.”

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