Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I am a Junior Engineer at Groundforce Shorco (subsidiary of VP PLC) - specialists in temporary excavation shoring & support with the use of sheet piles, hydraulic framing and struts. Projects range from small pipe repairs, to large scale basement support for skyscrapers & tower blocks.

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

My role as a design engineer requires good team working skills and the ability to work to a deadline. I communicate not only with the engineers in my team but also with sales representatives and clients. Every design that I do is slightly different and I learn something new every day. Groundforce Shorco is a market leader in temporary shoring solutions, so my job is to design a temporary shoring solution which is both economical and well engineered for the client's needs. I design temporary shoring solutions for both small scale projects such as emergency sewer repairs, to larger schemes which are many metres in size. As a market leader we deal with high profile clients such as Balfour Beatty, Arup, Kier & Babcock which all have slightly different design requirements and needs.

On receipt of a design request form from the client, I engineer a solution which is best for the given type of excavation. That may be a trench box or perhaps a multi-level frame system with sheet piling. If there is a high water table present, then an interlocking sheet pile may be used with a toe-in to reduce the chance of water ingress into the excavation. The type of shoring equipment the design is engineered around is based on the ground conditions at that particular location. The ground conditions tend to be taken from a borehole log or trial pit. Heavier duty equipment may be required if the excavation is deep or the loadings are high.

Once a design has been decided upon, a quote is raised and the two documents are sent to the client for evaluation. If the client has any issues with the design then I will carry out a revision, addressing any changes or concerns the client may have. If the client wishes to proceed with the design then an in-depth, 15-20 page long, full-design document is created showing a full analysis of the excavation as well as an AutoCAD drawing.

A strong emphasis is placed on attention to detail as well as good AutoCAD skills and the ability to communicate with a variety of people all with different levels of engineering knowledge. My job role requires me to draw mainly on my geotechnical knowledge.

 Projects include:

  • Creating a professional looking document showing Eurocode design checks for equipment to ensure they are correctly designed and suitable for the task at hand. I did this project in conjunction with the development team which specialises in mechanics, structures and steel design.
  • Creating a shoring manual for clients allowing them to choose an off the shelf design for their excavation if the ground conditions are good. This reduced the load on the engineering team as they have to create fewer bespoke designs.
  • Recalculating the working load limits of our hydraulic frames from their section properties, allowing them to take higher loads than before.

On top of the day to day job, I have also been on training courses, visited sites, helped install shoring equipment and visited other divisions of the company. Most importantly I have become a more confident engineer and know my time at Groundforce will allow me to be a better student when I return to University.

What are you enjoying the most and are you involved in any interesting projects? 

I enjoy talking with clients and attending site meetings. I enjoy working with the people I've met on my placement and have made some good friends. What I enjoy most is that my opinion is respected and I feel as if I am a permanent employee of the company. 

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I wanted to gain experience in the work place and make sure that engineering is right for me. I also wanted to make myself as employable as possible after graduating as the job market is so competitive. Before starting this experience I hoped that I would be able to secure a position in the company for after I graduate as well as gaining sponsorship towards my tuition fees. I'm pleased to say that I've managed both!

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

Make as many applications as possible, you may not hear back from them all and will probably get some rejections but you have to persevere. As for the actual placement year, work as hard as possible and make a good impression. You'll be amazed how much people notice even the smallest things you do and this reflects on both yourself and the University.