Sebastian Reid, 22, studied civil engineering at the University of Salford and did a placement with Salford City Council

As a child I was fascinated by the computer game Sim City, which involved the design and management of a huge network of cities, managing demand and making them grow. I have always had an interest in the sciences - the physical sciences in particular - and this, along with my natural fascination with structures and transportation networks, meant that a career in some form of engineering, be it transportation, civil or structural, was a natural progression. At GCSE level I found that I had a natural inclination towards physics and so I studied that to A-level along with mathematics, chemistry and ICT.

I have just graduated with a 2:1 in civil engineering at the School of Computing Science and Engineering at the University of Salford. The course was delivered by a combination of lectures, tutorials, laboratories and design projects. I was attracted to the hands-on method of learning where the classes were smaller and more personal than some of the other engineering departments. The opportunity to take a year out on an industrial placement was a major influence, because it was important to me that I graduated with a good degree but also to have experience. Employers often want graduates with work experience and the structure of the course allowed me to achieve that.

I did an industrial placement for 12 months after my second year of study. It was with Salford City Council in their engineering design section as a student engineer. Responsibility was the key element. From the second week on the job I was managing my first scheme: a small-scale crash barrier to protect a 200-year-old retaining wall. I was given training, advice and all the assistance I needed to complete a variety of projects. I was also responsible for working within a total budget of £157,000. Importantly, I learned how to be customer focused and work to a client's specification. During my time at the council I had my hand in around 17 schemes, four of which I designed and managed from the initial specification to the site management and contract drafting. The most challenging project was a bridge renovation in Salford Quays. We had to lift the bridge there, replace the load bearings and undertake some welding.

In an office you have to establish your identity and quickly learn the basics. Within the first month I had to get a grasp of all the procedures, design standards and the methodologies involved. Surviving the first month was perhaps the biggest challenge of the placement and I felt that in comparison to this, the design issues and other situations that cropped up were solvable.

Since my time at the council I have steered my career away from the general civil engineering discipline and instead towards the transport engineering side. I aim to become a chartered civil engineer, and from there the future is pretty much open for me. I am now studying an MSc in traffic engineering and planning.

If you look at the fabric of modern Western society, we take for granted the innovations of our immediate past, the forbears from the industrial revolution that originated in the areas around Manchester. Without engineering, many of life's necessities would not be so easily come by, and life would be much harder.

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