CASE STUDIES

Read About:

  • Our diverse range of delegates
  • Their personal experience of the training
  • People in a similar situation to yourself

People from a wide range of backgrounds attend our courses.

Some are fairly new to the construction industry and want hands-on training to give them confidence and complement their educational qualifications. Some have been in the industry for many years and want to build on their existing experience to gain new skills and change the direction of their career.

Read the Case Studies

Trainee site engineer (Gail McEwan)

Name: Gail McEwen Eng-Tech MICE

Location: Central Scotland

Employer: I & H Brown LTD

Situation at the time of taking the course: At the time of taking the course I was a Trainee Site Engineer. My role involved supporting and aiding the Site Engineers with their duties ie Surveying, Setting Out etc. I had no construction related qualifications and was not studying at the time. I was working to gain some experience before starting college. I had two years’ experience Plant Operating on Civil sites in Australia and two months experience as a trainee Engineer in the UK.

Current situation: I am currently working as a Site Engineer. My role includes surveying, setting out, producing models/drawings, establishing engineering solutions to site problems and managing quality systems. I also take on Site Agent responsibilities which include managing costs, preparing forecasts, producing programmes, liaising with public authorities/clients & manage less experienced Engineers.

Gail’s experience of the course: The 5 day setting out course was adjusted to suit all levels of experience. There were absolute beginners and people with a bit more experience. Being a beginner at the time, I learned the basics and the fundamentals about Site Engineering. It made me learn how to set out and survey an area without relying on GPS/VRS systems. I learned not only how to do the tasks required of a Site Engineer, but how to do it mathematically thus gaining a deep understanding of what I was doing.

The course allowed me gain the knowledge I needed to apply for an HNC college course. It also developed my ability to work unsupervised on site. After the course I got to work on a section of the project without another Site Engineer helping me. I noticed that I had a bit more knowledge about the fundamentals of site engineering, than other Trainee Engineers who hadn’t attended the course.

Once I completed the training I was able to set profile boards and batter rails, establish stations around site (without relying on GPS), to check that equipment such as dumpy level was fit for use (two peg test), how to carry out a level survey and how to use a total station (including how to set it up!).

Prior to the course I lacked any confidence at all in my ability to be a Site Engineer. The thought of working unsupervised on site was daunting. After the course (and taking to the trainer and the other course delegates about their personal site experiences) I felt I had the ability to carry out tasks on site but also felt more mentally prepared.

The course made me immediately more valuable to my employer because I was able to be put on site on my own rather than being “buddied up” with another Engineer.  

These days I get the opportunity to pass my skills on, because new trainees and graduates to the company are sometimes placed with me, so they can learn the ropes. I am also a mentor to a trainee and a delegated Engineer through the ICE I-Eng training scheme for another Engineer. I am a STEM ambassador and attend school fares etc to promote Engineering to the next generation, give talks/presentations at Equate Scotland events for younger female Engineers just starting out. I also gave a speech at the Scottish Parliament cross party group on construction about my experiences to promote Engineering to the younger generation.

I keep the course handouts in my drawer to refer back to from time to time.

The course didn’t just give me the knowledge and skills for setting out. I also got a lot from one to one conversations I had with the trainer, Saffron. I got the chance to ask questions about what it was like to work on site as a qualified Engineer, how to handle work load, how to deal with difficult personalities and how to excel in the role. I genuinely learned so much more from Saffron than just the set course content.

Attending the course gave my career a real boost! The course, combines with my site experience boosted my knowledge and confidence. This was demonstrated to my employer when I went back to work after attending the course a more competent and confident Engineer.

One of the most useful things I learnt of the course was the the traverse task. Traverseing is commonly done with a GNNS on IHB site so not a lot of thinking goes into what it is you are doing. The course allowed me to understand how to do this without relying on GNNS equipment and therefore made me learn why and how it is done mathematically.

I often recommend this course not only to people within my own organisation but to others such as subcontractors and people I meet through the events I attend. The course is so effective because the the trainer is an Engineer, not just someone who read a book about.  She was excellent at delivering the course and answering questions from the group.

Company manager/ joiner (Steven McCallum)

Name: Steven McCallum

Employer: Draintec Solutions Ltd

Location: Glasgow

Situation at the time of taking the course: At the time of taking the course, I was a manager in the company. My job involved managing day to day jobs, managing ongoing contracts and supervising technical jobs. When I attended the 5 day course I held a HNC Construction Management and an SVQ Level 4 in Construction Site Management. Prior to that I had experience as an apprentice joiner, and was a director of my own company for 2 years before joining Draintec where I Started as a supervisor carrying out drainage surveys and trenchless repairs, before moving up to manager level.

Current situation: I am a Senior Manager/ Civil Engineer. I manage contracts and the day to day running of company. I am responsible for running the surveying division, carrying out topographical surveys and drainage mapping and continuing to expand our surveying division.

Steven’s experience of the course: Having only being taught how to use a dumpy level in basic situations the course taught me proper methods and how to use a dumpy level properly and how to work within tolerances. With very little experience of using a total station the course was very beneficial in teaching how to not only set out properly but proper set up and use of the total station itself.  The course opened up the opportunity to move up within the company and carry on to degree level education.

In the first instance, the training allowed me to carry out basic level surveys which were previously subcontracted out to other companies. This provided a good basis to add further training and with experience, later being able to carry out topographical surveys.

The course gave me a lot more confidence when surveying. This is partly due to being properly trained on setting the instrument up and carrying out on-site calibration. This emphasis on quality control of information makes me confident in handing over information to the client because I know it is within the specified tolerances.

The setting out training made me more valuable to my employer because it allowed the company to expand and carry out work that was previously subcontracted out. Since being on the course and going through further training and site experience we have started a new surveying division within the company carrying out complex drainage surveys, drainage mapping and topographical surveys and are currently moving towards laser scanning.

I often get the opportunity to pass on my setting out skills. I have shown various employees how to use the dumpy level to carryout basic level surveys on site and how to work within a specified tolerance, taking cover levels and invert levels. I have shown survey assistants basic levelling techniques and proper set-up of survey instruments. I always have the course handbook and worked examples from the course in my van for quick reference when on site. I used it a lot after the course, but don’t need it so much now.

The course has allowed me to progress but has also embedded the importance of the proper methods and maintaining a high degree of accuracy. This course was the starting point for me in surveying and provided a very good basis which allowed me to go and carryout levelling tasks which I initially attended the course to learn how to do, it created a foundation for me to build on and further develop my skills and training later on. A major benefit of attending the course is that despite currently studying BSC (Hons) Environmental Civil Engineering at GCU part time, surveying isn’t covered within the part time course, so the Setting Out for Construction 5 day course substituted this and still allowed me to move on in my career.

The course has contributed to my rapid progression and allowed me to move up the career ladder.

The whole course was beneficial as I only had previous experience in using a dumpy level. My most useful insights were proper use of the dumpy level and setting up a site with no control stations and proper use of the total station.

As a result of attending the course, I always work to a higher standard and correctly log information for quality control.

I think the course is very beneficial for anyone including experienced people. What I found was although you are taught various things on site by others these are not necessarily the correct way of doing things. For someone like myself it is the ideal foundation to build on and with experience I am now confident in carrying out everything covered in the course. I would also recommend the course to site managers and management staff to help them gain a better understanding of setting out and surveying and also to be able to carry out quality control on site and ensure best practice is being used.

Self- employed builder/ QS (Paul Hegarty)

Name: Paul Hegarty

Location: Cornwall

Employer: Self- employed

Situation at the time of taking the course: When I took the course, I was a general builder working on site and doing some quantity surveying and estimating in between times or when the job I was involved in requires it. I had 15 years experience of hands on building and 15 years experience on the commercial side of things. I have a City and Guilds certificate in Bricklaying and a BSc(hons) in Quantity Surveying.

Current situation: My job role is largely the same except now I can also use the total station when I need to.

Paul’s experience of the course: Before the course we (the gang I work with) set out with tapes and lines.  The total station makes life much easier.  Site profiles are always subject to being damaged and often you end up setting out the job again after the formation level dig, or foundations are dug and concreted.  The total station makes it easy to quickly bang in some pins to show the formation level dig, to bang in some pins to show the centre of dig and then to put nails in the concrete for foundations.  You need to have done the deskwork though.  The excavator becomes more productive as less time is spent waiting.

Drainage runs are also easier with the total station as you can pinpoint the centre of a riser and the centre of a manhole and get the pipes exactly in the right place.  These are always difficult to get in the right place when there is no substructure in place yet.

We get involved in some quite large and difficult projects often involving basements.  It was after working on a job with a 1/2 basement on a very tight site that I decided to go on the course.  We had to set out so many times with lines suspended up to 3.5m above our heads and trying to plumb down, and with lines which weren’t level.  I knew how much easier our lives would have been and how many frayed nerves would have been saved if we could have used a total station.

The instances of neighbours not being happy about building work taking place means that setting out has to be more accurate.

Having the knowledge now probably makes me less expendable to my client.  It makes our lives on site easier.

I often refer back to the online material we were given on the course. Because I don’t set out all the time I need the aide memoire to revise.  Most recently best practice observing!

I learnt loads of tips on the course. For example, how important it is to always check to a known point as soon as the instrument is set up and to close out on a known point.  Also, how to use your level book to write it all down otherwise you will forget why you did something or what information you used.    

Another trick when setting out mesh, is to go across the blinding in a grid and spray to show how much higher or lower the as-built blinding level is than the design level.  And a trick for marking on rough surfaces is to make a patch with a yellow wax crayon and then write on it with a pencil.

There are so many training courses in construction that are delivered by people who have obviously never spent very much time on a construction site and who don’t really care about what people are learning or even if they are learning.   You can tell that Saffron had spent a fair bit of time in the mud and rain and dealing with the pressure.   She is also intent on making sure that students learn and understand and cares about the reputation of her course.  We can’t always do things to the letter of the theory but can be sure that we have done something in a professional and rigorous way.

Groundworks foreman/ site manager (Jesse Redmond)

Name: Jesse Redmond

Location: Lancashire

Employer: Various companies including DWM Plant, R & M Developments, Redmond Civils

Situation at the time of taking the course: When I took the setting out course I was a groundworks foreman/ site manager. I was up and down the ladder and back on the tools occasionally, but I wanted to go further. My qualifications and tickets include HNC Civil Engineers, SMSTS, CPCS and CSCS. I had 10 years experience in groundworks.

Current situation: I am now a site manager/ site engineer full time. I’m working on multiple groundworks packages ranging from £0.5M to £5M. I also set out drainage for external works.

Jesse’s experience of the course:  I didn’t gain enough practical knowledge at college and the course gave me confidence to set out using the total station on my own.   Once I had completed the course and got some setting out experience it allowed me to push for higher management positions. The course was great for my confidence. Even just the little bits you learn are useful every day on site.  It definitely gave me a wider range of jobs to choose from.

The online videos, which we got as part of the course, are a very useful tool, before during and after the course. It means if you’re not continuously setting out and using the knowledge, it’s a great way of looking back.

I would recommend the course to anyone in a similar position to myself.  It took me a while to find a suitable course and even when I had booked a place I was still questioning whether 5 days would be enough.  However, it was, and for anyone with my background I’d say it’s a great step up the career ladder and well worth doing.

Graduate civil engineer/ Middle East (Mohammad Saim)

Name: Mohammad Saim

Location: Dubai

Employer: Arkiplan

Situation at the time of taking the course: I had just completed my MSc in Civil Engineering at the time I took the course. I also have a BTech in Civil Engineering. I was working as a Site Civil Engineer with the same company I am working for now.

Current situation: I am a Civil Site Engineer. The company work for is an engineering consulting firm so, I basically do inspections and supervise the work on site which is a 27 storey tower. 

Saim’s experience of the course:  In Dubai we generally have a surveyor, unlike in the UK where the site engineer does all the surveying/setting out works on site. My involvement in the surveying side of things is to ensure that all the dimensions are as per the design drawings.

The course made a difference to me because now I actually know how total station works, which gives me more confidence. I also do use the knowledge at other time when I have doubts in work The training has allowed me to confidently use automatic levels and perfectly check all architectural & structural layouts. I looked at the online course at the start of my job to get a quick revision.

I wanted to have a clear understanding of total station as I had never used it before. I believe anyone taking this course, would be better at using the total station. I can and I do actually use these instruments on site by myself rather than being dependent.  

I would say that other engineers in Dubai working with a contractor, he or she would benefit greatly from taking this course. I would add that it was fun taking this course in Glasgow from Ms Saffron. She is kind and helping.

Construction management graduate (Alan L)

Name: Alan L

Employer: Major Civil Engineering Contractor

Location: Scotland

Situation at the time of taking the course: When attended the training I was a Construction Management graduate trying to find a job in the industry, so I was working in another industry in the mean-time. My qualification is MSc (hons) Construction Project Management. My only construction experience at the time of taking the course was a summer placement working as a chainperson on a roads project.

Current situation: I am a Site Engineer with on a major infrastructure project. My role involves a large number of tasks including setting out and surveying, teaching trainees, planning works, ordering then checking materials on delivery, carrying out safety and environmental monitoring and toolbox talks, monitoring subcontractor’s and in-house labour and keeping accurate records of works on site.

Alan’s experience of the course:  The course gave me confidence in job interviews then on site as I had a sound understanding of the basics to then practice and develop on site.

After attending the course, I found a job in construction that has allowed me to work on some of the most well-known and prestigious projects across Scotland and The North of England in recent years (Edinburgh Trams, Borders Railway, V&A Dundee) with projects ranging in value from £1-2m up to £300m+ and a range of sectors: rail, marine works, electricity transmission, offshore wind.

The training allowed me to move from assisting an engineer to doing the work myself. The training improved my confidence a lot, both in finding a job and once employed. It helped me to find employment because having the skills, plus having attended the course off my own back before finding a job probably showed that I was serious about the role I wanted.

Having the training made me more valuable to my employer because it meant that they saved time on training me and it means I was able to teach others from early on. The company I work for puts a lot of effort into recruiting and training apprentice and trainee engineers, so on most projects, I am involved in teaching of some kind.

I still refer back to the handout 8.5 years on after the course. I still use the traverse calculation sheet and the instrument check sheets for my own regular checks and to teach trainees.

Understanding setting out and surveying from a first principles point of view gave me more choices of how to do things. i.e. using a total station is not always the best option when a tape measure will do the job just as well if not better. Understanding the basics like bearing and distance has also meant that I know what a modern total station or robotic is doing rather than just following the instructions on the screen. There have been a few jobs over the years where bearing and distance was still the best option for setting out various elements of the works. Once you understand the first principles, you can then move onto more complicated things, or know when keeping things simple is the better option.

If someone was studying or had graduated from a construction management degree as I had and wanted a more practical job than going straight into a management type role then this is a very good course to gain the skills and knowledge to do so. Learning first hand on site what is involved in building things would then help them further on in their career as they will then have a better idea of how to plan and manage activities as well as being better able to interact with the range of different people that are involved in a construction project.

Overseas engineer (Davide Boni)

Name: Davide Boni

Employer: Bam Nuttall Ltd, London Division

Location: London

Situation at the time of taking the course: When I moved from Rome to London I worked 4 years as Structural Engineer. Before that, I worked nearly 3 years as a freelance Site Engineer (commercial buildings) which did not involve any setting out.  My qualifications are BEng Civil Engineering and Incorporated Engineer (Register of Italian Civil Engineers).

Current situation: I am currently a section Engineer working in a £85M project for the expansion of an airport. On the project I am part of a team responsible for the construction of a suspended concrete deck consisting of precast beams, planks, in-situ structural topping and provision of some airfield services. I am also responsible for advising and supervising engineers on setting out methods and techniques.

Davide’s experience of the course:  The setting out course has been essential to strengthen my practical and theoretical skills about setting out techniques and procedures. This course gave me the boost to apply for site engineer roles posted by top tier contactors. I don’t think I would have ever got a job as site engineer without attending this course as it allowed me to stand out from the other candidates. After finishing the setting out training I applied for a job and I was invited to an interview straightaway. The course has been essential to apply with confidence to get a role as site engineer and to operate in accordance to the industry standards following best practices.

When I moved to UK I had more theoretical than practical knowledge of the setting-out techniques because when I worked as site engineer in Italy these tasks were performed by Surveyors. During the course I brushed up what I studied at Uni and I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the latest setting-out instruments.   

The training has made me added value for my employer and especially for my team. Moreover, by hiring me the company has hired a skilled resource saving time and money on training.

I have the opportunity to share what I learnt with the other engineers of the team. In particular, in the project where I am involved I am currently using my skills to:

  • prepare the Site Information Sheets containing all the relevant information for foreman and gangers  
  • plan and perform the setting out of drainage systems using profiles and travellers
  • use horizontal and vertical control techniques to set out manholes, slot drains, accurate level of in-situ concrete slabs, position and cut off level of piles etc.

I keep a copy of the course handout in my laptop and I consult it every now and then.

The course has made me better at my job because it has given me a method to perform accurate setting out and to implement independent checking and cross-checking of all setting-out operations.

The method to transfer a TBM in a closed loop. It has been the first exercise I put into practice in my job. I consulted the course handout before starting the job and I succeeded brilliantly.

Because of what I learnt on the course, before starting to setting out the works I always review and control the drawings, walk over the site, brief my team to plan the sequence of setting out and how dimensions will be checked.

If someone with a similar background to myself was thinking about attending the course, I would definitely advise them to attend it in order to strengthen technical abilities, teamworking and confidence to operate in compliance to the industry standards.

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