A Coffee With… Chris Micklethwaite for National Apprenticeship Week

Article posted on: 10th February 2021

It’s National Apprenticeship Week and we’re shining a spotlight on our wonderful apprentices!

We caught up with Chris Michlethwaite, Civil Engineering Trainee based in our Leeds office to find out about his greatest acheivements so far, his dreams for the future and… why he’s been breaking everything!


What does your role involve?

On a standard day, I would check council specifications to help create detailed drawings for construction. I prepare the topographical surveys and architect plans for new projects ready to begin the drainage strategy. If a strategy is finished, then I design the domestic drainage for the project with levels and gradients of pipes.

One of the things I enjoy most about my role is that I feel I have an impact in the modern world. If I was to put on a drawing that a manhole should be at a specific point, width and depth then the contractors on site would build it to that standard. I find it interesting to think that although my time in the industry is still short, I am already able to have such a big impact on the construction world and I am eager to see how big my impact could be in 10-20 years time.


Why did you choose to do an Apprenticeship?

I chose to complete an apprenticeship because I will acheive a full degree in Civil engineering, moving onto a masters, without any student debt. On top of this, I’ll also have around six years experience in the field, making me a far more competent than other graduate engineers. This experience will also help me to progress sooner with the ICE to push for Chartered status.

My main fear when starting out was that I would be completely overwhelmed with new terminology, principles and computer skills that I couldn’t keep up. The best way I found to try and reduce the level of this, was to read up on some common terms and techniques used in Civil engineering to help me when I started.


What would you say to students considering an Apprenticeship?

Don’t fall for the misconception that an apprenticeship is for people who are not ‘smart’ enough for university. The outcome is the exact same and I believe it is harder for someone in an apprenticeship as you work 32 hours a week, along with eight hours at college, on top of finding time to complete assignments and achieve your NVQ.

I knew I didn’t want to go to university but I thought that it might restrict my successfulness in life. Looking back, I would have chosen to begin this journey sooner rather than completing my A-levels, as it I really enjoy it and find the job very rewarding. A lot of people make good friends at university and I thought I might miss out on that chance and as I have friends who have moved to Newcastle for their degree, I was worried. But I have made great friends at college and enjoy meet them after work or at the weekends (when we were allowed!).


How did you get into Civil Engineering?

I was always interested in how different components came together, such as a bicycle. I spent a little bit of time ‘breaking’ things to attempt to repair them. I thought that I would aim towards the electrical side of engineering, until I found out about software like AutoCad, where I could sit down and design my own creations. I have a goal to be able to one day help design a bridge and Civil engineering suits that perfectly to help make it realistically achievable.


What project have you enjoyed working on recently, and why?

Recently I have been working on a project in Holmfirth. I’m enjoying this project because there some variety in the carriageway and adjacent footways, so I have needed to provide several sections each with slight variations. I enjoy getting into the AutoCad software and creating drawings of highway sections and the components that make them, so this project is great.


What has been your biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievement is on a project in Lincolnshire called Prebend Lane, as I have designed most of the domestic drainage, which is around 280 plots. This took a long time and required careful designing as areas of the site had very limited depth, so I had to adjust levels and efficiently work around that issue.


What’s it like working at Clancy?

Back when we were all  in the office, the atmosphere was amazing! Even whilst working from home all the engineers are very supportive of my learning and assisting me in improving my knowledge. On top of that, we’re all friends, we’ve had office meals in the past which are really enjoyable evenings.

As for the wider Clancy team, i’ve found everyone is supportive and friendly. When someone makes an enquiry in the engineering group email, an informative and useful response is quickly made by at least one other engineer. You very much feel part of a team when at work, which is not something I had at previous employers.

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