Young Teessiders are carving out futures in civil engineering thanks to the support of their employer.
Lynas Engineers, based at the Wilton Centre near Redcar, has launched the careers of 19-year-old old Tom Huswitt, Stephen Drinkwater, 24, and Ben MacGregor, 26,
Tom, who lives in Marton, was the company’s first employee when he joined as an apprentice in 2018.
He has now finished his BTEC at Middlesbrough College and over the next six years will combine studying part-time – first for an HNC and then a degree at Teesside University – with working at Lynas.
Tom’s career path will be similar to Stephen and Ben’s, who have both just completed their graduate apprenticeships. Stephen, from Normanby, was awarded a first-class honours degree by Teesside University.
Rob Lynas, the managing director of Lynas Engineers, said: “This is the way we want to grow the business, by developing our own people. I went through the traditional university route but I think this is much better. Historically I think there’s been a bit of snobbery about studying part-time while you’re working, but hopefully that’s changing now.”
Lynas Engineers was launched nearly four years ago after Rob and three colleagues lost their jobs when their employer closed its Teesside office. Two of the three still work for Lynas.
“Tom was our first proper employee,” said Rob. “It felt a bit of a risk at the time, but it has worked out so well and set the standard for what has followed.”
Despite the coronavirus pandemic Lynas Engineers has just completed its biggest project so far – a £4m scheme to improve the Cargo Fleet junction on the A66 – and it has been busy recruiting.
It has just appointed a new office administrator – 28-year-old Olivia Shearer – Lee Foulner has joined the team as a senior infrastructure engineer, and it is trying to find its next apprentice.
The three young engineers – Tom, Stephen and Ben – all have family connections with the profession. Tom’s brother and cousin are both apprentice civil engineers, two of Stephen’s uncles are civil engineers, and Ben’s dad was a draughtsman at British Steel.
“I’d been looking for an apprenticeship even before I started GCSEs and all the way through my course, but I couldn’t find one until two months into my A-levels. So I left college and started here,” said Tom, who lives in Marton.
For him the appeal of engineering is being able to see something – even an everyday object – he has designed.
Stephen joined the company in November 2018 on the same day as Ben. He has worked on a variety of projects, including highway schemes, roundabouts, drainage schemes, car parks and sports fields.
“People take for granted the amount of engineering and design that goes into things you see around you. But behind that there are all sorts of calculations involved,” he said.
The benefit of “earning while learning” outweighs the workload. “You’ve got to manage your time and your social life takes a back seat when it comes to taking exams. You’ve got to really focus on what’s important at the time,” said Stephen.
“You avoid student debt and also have the edge on student graduates who don’t have the same in-depth experience. It’s a win, win really.”
Ben said working for Lynas Engineers had brought him a number of benefits: “You get to work on some really interesting schemes. Because it’s such a small company you feel that your involvement in the work is more valued and precious within the project, and I have no university debts. By the age of 25 I’d managed to save up and buy my own house.”
Lynas Engineers is one of more than 60 businesses based at the Wilton Centre, employing 750 people. As the company has grown it has moved into bigger and bigger offices. It is now in its fourth.
Claire Morton, the Wilton Centre’s accommodation manager, said the size and space available offered businesses long-term peace of mind. “Moving to a different address is disruptive and expensive,” she said. “This is a very large site and we are able to accommodate requirements for bigger offices or laboratories. That’s just one of the many benefits of the Wilton Centre.”