Building Bridges between Study & Work

Matt Duffy and Robert Campbell are currently studying on the Higher National Certifcate in Civil Engineering, but they are also involved in one of the most important projects in Derry~Londonderry’s regeneration – the new peace bridge linking the cityside and the waterside.  They spoke to The Vision about working on such a momentous project...



photo: Matthew Duffy"I was out of work for a long time...I had been working in the Construction Industry, mainly in London, but because I had no formal qualifications, I was one of the first to lose my job when the recession hit.  I enrolled on the HNC to improve my qualifications.  Then I saw the post of site engineer advertised through the Kickstart 2 Work programme, which helps those looking for work.  To get the job you had to be studying either a HNC or HND in a construction related subject.  Following an initial interview with them, I was then interviewed by Graham Construction and was delighted to be offered the post on a short term contract in February 2011.  Studying the HNC definitely helped me secure the job.
I’m now in the second year of the course and what I’ve learnt in the College definitely helps me with my work on site – it’s all very useful.  The Peace Bridge is a suspension bridge with 2 pylons.  The majority of the weight of the bridge is suspended of cables, along with 5 concrete supports for extra rigidity.  It’s a complex bridge because of the shape of it – it’s designed to be like the handshake across the water between the two sides of the city.  It certainly makes you more confident on site.  I feel very proud to work here.  I was just happy to get a job but to get this job on the peace bridge is just brilliant.  We will be working on the Peace Bridge until May 2011 but Graham Construction recently offered us full-time contracts, which could see us working on any of the projects here or in the UK."


Robert Campbell:

photo: Robert Campbell"I had been working in the Construction industry since I left school, but with the downturn in the industry I was unemployed, so I went back to studying at North West Regional College to gain skills and the right qualification to get me back into work.  I enrolled on the HNC in Civil Engineering in September 2010.  I find the course really interesting.  For anybody that’s looking to get into Civil Engineering it’s a really good course.  Everything that we learn in College is applied here in our work as site engineers – the modules relate to the real world of work.  And I found the lecturers to be so supportive.  They encouraged me to apply for this job and also an ICE scholarship, which I got.  It means I’ll be progressing onto a professional qualification on completion of the HNC. 
As a site engineer we start at 7am, before the other staff start, making sure the site is ready for them.   We plan the day ahead, making sure permits are up to date and solving any problems that may arise.  Being from the city, it’s great to be working on this project.  It’ll always be here and I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren i was involved in its construction.
No two days are the same in civil engineering. It’s a varied career and dealing with the challenges of a working site is very rewarding.  Also, you have to be prepared to travel – this career could see you working anywhere.  I’ve been offered a permanent contract with Graham Construction and I know that wouldn’t have been possible without the HNC studies."


Brian architects his career
HND/C Architectural Technology

photo: Brian ShawFormer student Brian Shaw won the Chartered Institute of Building North Western Centre, Best Student Award 2010.  He completed our HNC Architectural technology/building engineering programme and has since progressed to UUJ to undertake a Degree in Architectural Technology.

Originally from London, Brian was working as a furniture maker for a local firm for a number of years but harboured an ambition to develop his creativity for design.


“To be honest I found myself getting a bit old to be working in a physically demanding job and after completing a night class in 2D design I had a look at the full-time HND course in Building.
I’m the type of person who once they make a decision they go for it 100%.  So I found myself giving up a well-paid and secure job and being back in the classroom for the first time in 30 odd years!  Most, but not all, of my peers were school leavers and to some this may be intimidating or unnerving, I seen it as a test – I wanted to beat them all!"

Brian’s original plan was to complete the course and then go back to the employment market. 

“When I finished the HND the bottom really had fallen out of the construction industry so I made an application to Ulster University for the BSc Honours Degree in Architectural Technology and was accepted.
I can honestly say to anyone who is in the same position that I found myself in a few years ago is to go for it.  Don’t think it’ll not be for you or you’ll not be welcome.  The lecturers are an excellent bunch.”