Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE): Kayla

‘Being part of the construction of something old and new is an honour’

Kayla Browne, 23, is an apprentice civil engineer at BAM Nuttall Ltd. Having already attained a level 5 higher national diploma (HND) in construction and the built environment, and a level 5 national vocation qualification (NVQ) in construction management (sustainability). Kayla wanted to continue to attain a level 6 qualification BSc in civil engineering site management at Leeds College of Building.

What inspired you to become a civil engineer?

My dad, who’s got an engineering background, inspired me to take the apprenticeship route and become an engineer. When I was little, I would always follow him around the house and at work, wanting to help with little DIY tasks. For example, wiring and installing lights. Then, during work experience on the London Bridge Station Redevelopment project, seeing a finished station on one side while the other side was being stripped out to be constructed, I thought ‘this industry is for me’. Being part of the construction of something old and new is an honour.

Why civil engineering?

Being onsite and ready for the challenges the day has to offer.

Also, knowing that each day can be very different to the day before is exciting.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

Projects that I can see on a day-to-day basis and reminisce.

It’d also be amazing to work on bridges and skyscrapers. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Burj Khalifa or the Marina Bay Sands Tower in Singapore.

My next project will be HS2, a massive project that comes with new engineering skills different to those I currently have. It’s something I’ll be able to look back on with pride many years later.

What does a day at work look like for you?

This is a day in my life working on the Thames Tideway Tunnel:

I wake up at 5:30am to be onsite in time for the daily briefing at 7:50am. Once the briefing is done, I check my emails, catch up with the engineering team, and then with the overall site team to plan for the day and the week ahead.

My days vary from having to go down into the tunnel to review the secondary lining (which provides further resistance to abrasion), checking on the shift team’s progress or carrying out quality assurance from previous concrete pours.

Occasionally, I’ll help other teams with surveying tasks, either setting out the design onto the site itself, levelling the site (determining height points), or taking record drawings that will be fed back to the designer.

By 5:30pm I’m ready to head home. In the evenings, I either relax or work on my university assignments.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

Male dominated industry? Even though there are less women in construction than men, there are still plenty of female role models who I can look up to, and I hope to be one for future generations.

There are various female engineers and site members, in all positions, site-based and/or office-based.

I think civil engineering being a male dominated industry will soon be a thing of the past. And the working environment will be more balanced in terms of diversity.

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal or professional challenges/difficulties?

I started as a very shy person. The industry has tested my limits at times, but I wouldn’t change that.

It’s made me more confident and able to talk to new people of all ages and backgrounds.

The opportunities that I’ve been exposed to over the years have been amazing. I’ve been on BBC news, had a cartoon of me created, and have even been on a joint campaign to raise awareness about the river Thames with a reality TV star!

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