Sandwich Year Placement – My Year at ALA
Robbie joined ALA in July 2019 for a Sandwich Year Placement as part of his degree course. Studying Quantity Surveying at Leeds Beckett University, Robbie wanted to put the knowledge he had acquired during his first two years at university to good practice.
During his time with ALA, Robbie has worked on a number of different projects, including a period spent in Denmark. He has now returned to university to complete his final year of studies and is expected to graduate in Summer 2021.
What is a Sandwich Year Placement?
Last week brought an end to my year long industry work experience for my sandwich year placement at University.
As I am about to start my final year, I have had the opportunity to think back on my time with ALA and evaluate how important a sandwich placement has been for my progression and understanding of Quantity Surveying. A sandwich year placement is where a university student can take a year out, usually between their second and third or final year of study. It is a great way to develop a deeper understanding of your chosen profession as well as apply the learning and knowledge you have acquired in a practical, hands on way.
At the start of my placement, the only knowledge I had was what I had learnt in lectures and seminars at Leeds Beckett University. This year I have been fortunate to gain experience in two different avenues of my profession; Claims work and Project work. In the first half of the year, I worked predominately on claims work and dispute resolutions.
Quantity Surveyor Responsibilities
One main project I was working on was an availability claim for an Energy from Waste plant in Teeside. This project gave me the opportunity to attend meetings in London with senior executives as well as go out in the field and become familiar with the site.
My main duties were data analysis of machinery that could prove there had been an issue with availability, as well as dealing with the contracts and giving commercial support on building a case around the information that we had obtained. I am happy that I managed to gain experience in a different field of Quantity Surveying because I can now make an informed decision when looking at what area of the Quantity Surveying I would like to pursue post-graduation next year.
In the second half of the year, I had the opportunity to go and work on a pipeline project for a client in Zealand, Denmark. This project also involved travelling to Tricht in the Netherlands for contract preparations and then moving to Haslev in Denmark to carry out commercial support for the project.
My Main Responsibilities on site included;
- Payment Certificate Preparation: Each day I would usually receive Daily Production Reports from most of the subcontractors outlining the progress they had made each previous day. I would note down the number of hours that employees had completed, or measure progress by monitoring the Meter progression for the stringing subcontractor. At the end of each month the subcontractors would submit their payment applications, and I would use this information from the daily production reports to complete a payment certificate. I did this for all of the subcontractors on site.
- Daily Progress Reports: Using the Daily Production reports from subcontractors, as well as attending construction meetings, part of my job was to keep a daily progress report for the client. Each day I had to note down the cumulative planned progress alongside the cumulative actual progress for the Row of Way stripping, Welding crews, lowering in crew, trenching crews, backfill crew, coating crew and stringing. This information was sent to the client each day and became a very important document for everyone to monitor progress.
- Accruals: Using the information I was being sent daily by subcontractors, I was able to keep a daily record of the progression of works for most of the subcontractors. Fortnightly the Financial Controller on site would ask me to produce up to date estimates of accruals to help with his budgeting for the project.
- Reimbursable Works: Towards the end of my time with the client, a lot of effort was being pushed towards accounting for reimbursable/remeasurable works that would need to be accounted for on site by the QS. This included things like additional sand roads and steel plates, this meant that I had to go out on site in the locations of these additional works and measure the quantities of the material to ensure all money being spent was accounted for.
I spent a total of 6 months working the client, which included 3 months on site In Denmark. I never thought that in my first year of working and as part of the placement, that I would work abroad; let alone be a key figure in a commercial team for a pipeline project in Denmark.
This experience was very challenging as it was my first real Quantity Surveying job, and I had no prior experience of pipelines. That said, without the help of the Project team from both ALA and the client, I would not have been able to perform my roles as well as I did.
With their experience, advice and reassurance I was able to complete tasks independently and become a key part of the commercial team out there.
Without doubt this experience has improved my technical knowledge, given me the confidence to communicate effectively with industry professionals and improved my ability to complete quality work under strict deadlines.
Working during a pandemic
Like everyone else at the start of this year, I never anticipated how different the world would become due to Coronavirus. A great positive was that there was never a point during the pandemic that I thought my placement may be coming to an end.
During lockdown, I had many conversations with my lecturers who were wanting clarification on my working situation as they had many cases of students being let go from their placements due to being surplus to requirements.
Throughout lockdown ALA were very fantastically supportive and clear that I was able to stay with them to complete my placement year. This filled me with reassurance that allowed me to continue working effectively during lockdown, and it was one less thing to worry about. I was supposed to be traveling to Demark in March but due to lockdown, I didn’t travel until June.
Initially I was sceptical about travelling and working in Denmark due to the pandemic and restrictions in place, however due to increased safety precautions at the airports and while on site in Denmark, it didn’t prove to be an issue.
Reflecting on a positive experience
A really positive aspect of deciding to take a year in industry is the amount of experienced people I have met whilst working. I have been fortunate enough to work with ALA and their clients this year, which has introduced me to a plethora of industry professionals who are more than willing to pass on their knowledge and talk about their own experiences.
Secondly it has improved my technical knowledge of the industry as I have been submerged in it every day for a year. This has allowed me to return to university with a greater understanding of the topics I have been studying in previous years, and this will only benefit me further when it comes to my exams.
In my opinion securing a placement with ALA was the best thing I could have done in the early stages of my career. This is because it has given me real experience in dispute resolutions and traditional Quantity Surveying, as well as the opportunity to live and become a part of a commercial team in Denmark on a major gas pipeline project.
I honestly feel that If I had chosen not to complete a placement year or if I had chosen another company, my opportunities would not have equated to half of the experience I have received this year while being with ALA.
As my experience has come to an end, I plan on returning to University in the next few weeks. I would like to thank everybody at A Lamb Associates and the clients that I worked with, for giving me exceptional advice and opportunities during my placement year. My technical knowledge and understanding has increased tenfold, and perfectly complimented my learning from Leeds Becket University. I feel that my ability to communicate effectively with industry professionals has put me in an unbeatable position for my life post-graduation. I would recommend to any student to consider a sandwich placement as they provide exceptional experience and exposure to real life industry problems. I can happily recommend ALA, they have always been more than willing to help me progress and have provided me with the correct experience for my future career.
Interested in a Sandwich Year Placement?
We are always happy to consider applications from students looking to take advantage of a Sandwich Year Placement. The benefits are enormous and we are well placed to provide an exceptional experience to help you apply your learning in a practical environment.
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch via email; email@example.com