Blog - Engineering Graduates
Hear from some of our current crop of Engineering Apprentices in our regularly updated blog below.
Ruth McKelvie - Graduate Trainee Engineer
Name: Ruth McKelvie
Job: Graduate Network Investment Engineer
2017 - March
I’m now well into my 2nd placement, where I’m working with The National HVDC Centre project team. I’ve been finding out about the motivations and purpose of the Centre.
As we all know, there are major drivers to reduce carbon emissions and the UK is moving away from traditional thermal generation to renewable technologies. This presents challenges to the power networks because the majority of renewable generation is in remote locations, whereas the places with high demand are the urban areas. High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) is the most efficient method of transmitting electricity across these long distances and there is a drive for more HVDC systems in the UK.
HVDC systems are very complex and the implications of multiple HVDC systems working in proximity are not fully understood. The National HVDC Centre will run studies and simulations using RTDS® (real-time digital simulators) systems to de-risk any future HVDC systems in UK.
The Centre building is in the final stages of construction and will be handed over to the Project Team at the end of March. The next phase is commissioning, where a number of installations and tests will be carried out. This involves a lot of planning and consideration. I coordinated the Health & Safety workshop to discuss how risks will be managed during this period. I also ensured the required policies & procedures were in place and wrote the necessary documentation.
Our Dragon’s Glen challenge has now finished! This is an initiative run by Scotland’s National Children’s charity, Children 1st. Our final challenge was taking part in the Mighty Deerstalker; a night time obstacle race in the Scottish Borders.
We are currently finalising our total but are very pleased to have beaten our £5000 target. All the teams are looking forward to attending the Awards Ceremony in Aberdeen next month.
2017 - January
December marked my last month in Investment Planning, which meant I had to finish all my projects before moving on.
I’d been working with the Control Room to investigate the state of automation on the network. Installing telecontrol on transformers and circuit breakers can be more economical especially if they supply a large number of customers. Relating to this, I’ve also been looking at the network improvements made to minimise the number of Customer Interruptions and Customer Minutes Lost (CI/CML) and evaluating their effectiveness.
December also saw our ‘Dragons’ Glen’ challenge come to a head. This is an initiative run by Scotland’s National Children’s charity, Children 1st, and the aim is to raise £5000. My team organised a company wide photo competition and the winning entries were used to make calendars. December was a key month for selling and distributing our orders.
My work with the Submarine Electricity Cable team continued and I witnessed the offloading of over 42 km of subsea cable at our storage facilities in Burntisland. The cable came by sea from the manufacturer in Greece and we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the vessel. The process of offloading the cable onto the dock is very complicated and took around 572 hours. The whole process of transporting the cable took about 6 months, including planning.
I have now started my 2nd placement in Future Networks, where I will be working on The National HVDC Centre project. This is a national facility, funded through Ofgem’s Electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC). The Centre will be a state-of-the-art training and simulation facility, specialising in HVDC transmission. It aims to be a collaborative facility, to de-risk the deployment of HVDC schemes and to support HVDC transmission solutions in Great Britain. The centre will officially open in April and my role is to support the project team as well as gaining experience in HVDC simulations. I look forward to working with this new team on this exciting, innovative project.
2016 - November
This month I have working on a variety of projects and met many more people from across the Networks business.
I have continued working with the Submarine Electricity Cables team. We visited ROVOP in Aberdeen, who are a specialist ROV company. ROVs are vital in carrying out inspections and maintenance of the subsea cables and so we work with the best in industry to get a full understanding of the market.
ROVOP store their ROVs on site and we had a tour of their workshop and ROV simulator. The simulator is used to train ROV pilots and counts for hours of their training time as it is so accurate.
How do you keep the lights on for more than 700,000 people? Well it takes a lot of planning. As part of making those plans, I attended a Triage Meeting with the Engineering and Investment team to identify projects for next year. During the meeting, I was asked to carry out an investigation on an area of the network that was identified for replacement. I learned how to use new software and undertook system studies to determine how this project should be carried out.
And yet it still takes more planning, I was also given the task of organising and chairing a kick-off meeting for a project on the Isle of Bute. I was given a list of contacts of people from across the business and I made contact with everyone to invite them to this meeting. We visited several sites across the island and looked at the works required at each location. On return, I wrote the project Investment Report from the discussions that were had at the meeting and the expertise of the people who attended.
2016 - October
I studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Strathclyde University and am now on the SSE Graduate Scheme. I am working in the Distribution business and my first placement is in Investment Planning.
The scheme started with a 3 day residential induction, which was a very hectic but a great way to meet all the other graduates.
I was given a set of placement objectives on my first day and have been kept busy ever since. At first I didn’t understand what was being discussed at the meetings and was confused by all the acronyms. However, I soon realised that everyone was happy to answer my questions and quite often didn’t know what the acronyms stood for as well! Everyone is very friendly and takes time out to teach me or introduce me to new people. The work can be challenging but isn’t harder than anything you were given at University.
In my first week I went to Burntisland to watch a land based trial of a new subsea cable laying method. SSE has 113 subsea cables that extend over 450 km and I have been working closely with this team. The Networks business is very diverse because it covers extremely remote areas in the Scottish highlands and islands as well as densely populated urban areas in the south of England. This makes it unlike any other DNO and presents unique and interesting challenges.
I’ve also been to Islay to carry out condition surveys and am currently organising a meeting on the Isle of Bute for the end of October to investigate a substation refurbishment.
Angelos Alexandropoulos - Graduate Engineer, Transmission Major Projects
Name: Angelos Alexandropoulos
Job: Graduate Engineer, Transmission Major Projects
2016 - November
After my first couple of weeks working with SSE I have managed to get to know my team and have finally started to contribute to the Company. As the days were passing I was starting to get more involved with the different aspects related to the enigineering design of transmission lines.
The choice of a specific conductor and tower or the specific route that a transmission line will follow are all based in engineering decisions taken from the team and it feels very good to be part of this process. But working at SSE is not about engineering only. Over the last two months, I have performed CPR on a dummy, I have driven all the way to Largs, as part of my driving assessment, where I enjoyed a nice view of the Atlantic, I am assisting in the publication of a children’s book which aims to educate young readers on how energy is produced and its proceeds would go to a charitable organisation which aims to help young children.
SSE teaches you how to balance your life and work and provides you with all the means necessary to succeed in your field. It’s a great place to work at so don’t hesitate to apply.
2016 - October
The first couple of days were informal and very enjoyable. It was our induction week. I met the rest of the graduates and got to know how the business works, but most importantly enjoyed the sun and networking.
The first days at the office were all about meeting the team. Everybody on the floor was really keen on helping me out with any issue I was having so managed to sort all the admin stuff fairly quickly. Then I was given my first assignments. Nothing hard but really interesting in order to understand how the design process works.
Even with a mechanical engineering background working on an electrical engineering-based business I had no trouble to adapt since everybody was more than happy to answer any of my questions and guide me properly. My main advice from my first couple of weeks at SSE is not to worry if you don’t have the knowledge. The person sitting next to you will probably have it and if not he will recommend who should be your point of contact.
Don’t forget, no question is a laughable question and if you learn to ask you will learn how to deliver.
Gerry McDonnell - Graduate Engineer, Generation
Name: Gerry McDonnell
Job: Graduate Engineer, Generation
2017 - March
I am now almost 3 months in to my placement at Great Island CCGT. I have really enjoyed the experience so far in what has proved to be a steep learning curve with regards to plant operation and CCGT technology. I am able to get out onto site almost every day, now that I am fully certified with Irish Safepass training I can go unsupervised, choose what I want to look at and manage my own time schedule. I have been supporting the on-site balance of plant (BOP) engineer with day to day maintenance and planning for the 2017 statutory outage.
The planning for the outage is now at a critical stage, with the date we come off-line set for a month from now. The planning requires cross collaboration between all maintenance engineering teams and operations, I have really enjoyed experiencing this aspect of it as there are plenty of plenty of conflicts and problems to be solved. During the outage I am looking forward to seeing the inside of the HRSG, the steam drums and the cooling water chambers. I have been put through confined space training which will allow me to do this.
Working on-site is absolutely the best way to learn, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty more opportunity throughout the grad scheme!
2016 - December
Since my last update I have finished my placement in the project design team, completed all the projects I was working on, had my placement review and am now ready to move to Ireland for my next placement. I will be working on site at Great Island Power Station alongside the Balance of Plant Engineer. This responsibilities of this role include management of auxiliary systems and supporting components within the plant, other than generating equipment itself. My first project will involve the pipework supports around the plant, where I will learn about different types, functions and failure mechanisms. I will also be assisting in developing a maintenance schedule for all supports in the plant.
There is a planned outage in April of this year, where the plant will come offline for 1-2 weeks for essential maintenance. This requires careful planning and execution as any delays will lead to significant financial setbacks. I am sure I will learn a great deal during this period about all aspects of the plant and I’m also looking forward to spending some time in Ireland. SSE have made it easy for us to make the move by supporting us financially, a great benefit of the graduate scheme here!
2016 - November
My second month at SSE has been a busy one. I’ve managed to tie up a few of the projects I was handed when I started, whilst taking on other challenges.
A busy schedule is the best way to develop your time management skills – this is something I have found a particular challenge since the beginning of my placement. Working around meetings, deadlines and external commitments forces you to plan ahead properly and document how you are going to use your time. This is also a key competency to work on as I progress towards CEng status.
With regards to projects, I’ve been given the opportunity to work on something a bit different this month. Each year the business has a capital budget which it uses to invest in generation assets. This could be to ensure the asset still meets all relevant legislation or to improve performance. This year the a team within the Engineering Centre has been assigned the task of selecting projects that the capital budget will be spent on. They are developing a new selection process where projects are ranked based on how financially beneficial they could potentially be to the business. This new approach should allow for maximum return on investment. I have been assigned a support role on this project and it has given me great exposure to how engineering can tie in with finance.
I have also found out that my next placement from January to April will be on site at Great Island CCGT in Ireland which I am very excited about!
2016 - October
My first two months with SSE have been very enjoyable. I’ve settled in to my team, made great progress on a couple of different projects and learned more about the energy industry than I did in five years at university.
For my first placement I have been working with the Project Design Development team who oversee the design and development of new large capital thermal power stations. Their role in the business is key as they ensure that designs submitted by the contractor conform not only to all relevant industry standards but also to the high design and safety standards required by the business. They achieve this by liaising with contractors and SSE’s own in-house and multi-disciplined engineers. My projects have involved work to support this team with current projects under development, including preparation of tender documents to be sent to contractors with design requirements. This has allowed me to develop a better understanding of different types of thermal plant and the different technologies currently being implemented.
The SSE scheme is ideal for any recent graduate as over the 2 years you complete multiple placements, gaining exposure to as much of the business as possible. SSE encourage this as it not only allows graduates to experience a variety of roles, it means they can find the role most suited to your skills and therefore maximises the value you can potentially add to the business.
SSE also promote engagement with the wider community. I have enrolled as a STEM ambassador and I’m looking forward to taking part in events across the country encouraging young people to think about a career in engineering. Every SSE employee is also given at least one day a year out of the office to take part in charity work in a scheme called “Be the Difference”. I have already taken part in this, spending the day with the Parklea “Branching Out” charity where we helped build a new farm shop and carried out vital landscaping work.
It’s been a great start with SSE and I would strongly encourage any graduate engineers interested in the energy industry to consider applying to the scheme.
James Williamson - Graduate Engineer, Generation
Name: James Williamson
Job: Graduate Engineer, Generation
2017 - February
The past few weeks has been very exciting for SSE’s Mechanical Turbine team with another of our wind farm development projects resuming construction after the holiday period. Blaraidh Wind Farm is situated in the mountains along the bank of Loch Ness and is planned to have 32 3.45MW Turbines designed by Vestas.
Being on a wind farm construction site is never boring. There are always works going on and jobs to help out with, great for the inexperienced (such as myself) to get involved. As part of the mechanical turbine team, we look after the turbines from manufacture all the way through to commissioning. The work onsite has included working within the turbine (something which is not for those afraid of heights), completing component inspections and observing the transport of components to site.
For those interested in renewable energy development, a place within SSE’s graduate engineer scheme is a fantastic way to get involved.
2016 - December
Since my last blog entry I’ve been extremely busy completing my first placement within SSE’s Engineering Centre. Whilst working within the Pressure Parts team (a team that maintains SSE’s thermal HRSGs) I’ve had the opportunity to visit multiple sites, met a variety of knowledgeable personnel and contractors, experienced NDT inspection and metallurgical studies of failed components, and led my own failure investigation into a deflected pipeline at Peterhead power station.
At the start of the New Year I begin my placement within renewable generation, working with our mechanical wind turbine team. This team deals with the pre-qualification, construction and commissioning of SSE’s onshore and offshore wind turbines. All going well, I’ll complete my working at height training (WAH) by the middle of January and spend the next 2 ½ months climbing up wind turbines. Look forward to some great photos!
For me, the best thing about SSE’s graduate scheme is the variety of placement opportunities available. In the generation side of the business, we not only get theoretical and practical experience on engineering projects but we also get an insight into the larger commercial aspects of operating a generation fleet. If I could recommend anything to the next intake of graduates it would be to come in with an open mind, be enthusiastic to learn new things and to ask ALOT of questions.
2016 - October
Having spent the last 2 summers as an intern at SSE in Perth I’m glad to be back, and this time I’m working with our Pressure Parts team in Glasgow.
So far, I’ve been involved with some design work on HRSGs and I’ve had the opportunity to visit both Ferrybridge and Keadby power stations. Thermal generation technology is relatively new to me but due to the support of my colleagues I’m learning fast.
It’s been a pretty busy first month for us graduates getting settled into working life whilst trying to catch-up on the different technologies we’re working with but everyone is still enjoying themselves and I for one am looking forward to what my future at SSE will bring.
John Coyle - Graduate Engineer, Networks
Name: John Coyle
Job: Graduate Engineer, Transmission
2017 - March
For the past few months I have been able to further my development through continuation of my site-based construction placement. Gradually my overall responsibility has increased within the scope of my placement role, which I believe is a direct benefit of the Networks programme generally offering 6 month placements in different teams.
Of late, the focus of my work has switched to the Loch Buidhe site which now has increased levels of site activity as a result of an accelerated target date for energisation, although I still maintain a regular presence on the Fyrish site too. It was encouraging to see that the high standard of both of these sites was acknowledged at the recent Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) Awards, with Fyrish winning Gold and Loch Buidhe taking Silver. These awards give recognition to sites that have demonstrated high levels of consideration and care towards local neighbourhoods, the general public, their workforce and the environment.
In terms of my recent day-to-day tasks, I have been working closely with the site construction squads that are contracted for underground cable installation. This has been a good opportunity to experience the problem solving associated with the front line of engineering delivery, whilst also providing a link between site progress and with our engineering team. Ultimately, my responsibility is to help ensure that the technical standard of the work delivered is compliant with both the design and specification as set by the SSEN engineering department. I am also sure that this type of experience will benefit me when it comes to spending time in other placements, especially design.
2017 - January
On returning to work after the Christmas and New Year period, my time has now switched to being spent entirely on-site, and this will now remain the case throughout the remainder of my construction and commissioning placements. This means I am currently spending little time in the office and am continually occupied with progressing site work and liaising with other site-based engineers.
A key site activity that I was able to contribute towards last week was final commissioning tests on one of the SGT transformers at the Fyrish site. A specific area of focus for me was supporting extensive circuit verification tests. This is a time sensitive task that required the team to follow the schematic layout drawings for components such as relays, alarms, fans, pumps, and timing routines – whilst also maintaining a comprehensive testing approach to ensure that all aspects of the product operates as required before final acceptance of the product.
The verification process is simple circuit testing in principle, but the activity becomes fairly complex when alterations to the circuit are sometimes necessary. The difficulty is further compounded by the high volume of components which need to be proven for a large piece of equipment such as a transformer.
Aside from the technical experience which I gained, I’d say the planning and co-ordination aspect of this task alone was particularly beneficial. Also, being able to work alongside experienced engineers who could provide some advance warning of specific aspects of testing to look out for was invaluable and helped me to make the most of this as a learning opportunity.
2016 - November
A particular focus of my efforts in the past month has been the development of framework documents to review the existing processes which are used for the installation of Metering within a substation environment. This includes LV metering normally associated with domestic properties, but also Large Power Metering which is appropriate for electricity trading at Transmission level.
A particular reason for why I have enjoyed this task is that I have been able to gather an appreciation of concerns on a practical basis by being based on-site, and then utilise that experience to inform the delivery of an improved process update. It is pleasing to know that the output of my work has played a direct role in helping others within the business, and will now provide guidance for future installations.
Last week I also had the chance to oversee the final installation by the Metering Operative; this is a step which has been considered critical for construction progress since it enables floodlighting to be installed around the site – vitally important now that total daylight hours have reduced with the onset of winter.
2016 - October
In June 2016, I graduated with an MEng in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde. During my studies I was sponsored by SSE as a member of the Power Academy Scholarship, and in September 2016 I joined the Graduate Scheme as an employee of SSE Networks, based within the Transmission business.
For the first few months with the company I have mainly been involved in a range of activities designed to aid business familiarisation and allow me to settle within my new role. A key focus of this work has been to develop a deeper appreciation of the Transmission projects which are currently underway within the business, particularly in terms of design and delivery.
I have now commenced a 6-month Construction placement which is based on-site at two new substation builds in the Ross-shire and Sutherland areas of Scotland. Successful delivery of these projects is vitally important to broader network reinforcement efforts as part of the Caithness-Moray-Shetland strategy. Infrastructure upgrades are necessary in order to accommodate the increased generation coming onto the network from renewable sources in this region.
So far I have had the opportunity to be involved in a key installation and testing procedure which was scheduled to take place at Fyrish Substation, near Alness. Testing of the HV cables which had been installed recently was the main focus throughout the week. Energisation of the relevant circuits, which are due to be integrated eventually into the surrounding network area, is reliant on the success of various tests performed. This included High Voltage AC & DC tests, Resistance tests and Partial Discharge tests. It was great to gather some first-hand experience of a test event that is considered critical to the project, which by nature is also particularly time-sensitive.
Laurence Kibblewhite - Graduate Engineer, Networks
Name: Laurence Kibblewhite
Job: Graduate Engineer, Networks
2017 - April
Over the last few months I’ve had a good mix of different tasks. I spent six weeks with the System Planning team modelling transformer lifespan, after which I returned to the Customer Connections team to work with the Overhead Line Engineers.
The time spent with the System Planning Team was office based and I got a good technical understanding of how a grid transformer operates and what affects its lifespan. With the Overhead Line Engineers, I was based on a project that had just begun construction and therefore I spent more time on site and reviewing contractor submissions. This is the good thing about the graduate scheme, there are technical roles and project roles in SSE and during the scheme you’ll do both, helping you decide which area you want to focus on.
Going forward I shall be working on site at Stronelairg – Melgarve. The project is one of the largest in Transmission; it involves building two new substations and installing 10km of 132kV underground cable. The works are connecting Stronelairg windfarm, which has a generation capacity of 240MW. During the placement I will be taking responsibility of the interface between the cable and substations, a great opportunity to gain experience of how a design is realised on site, whilst making a contribution to the project.
2017 - January
2016 - November
I have been working with SSE for nearly three months now and I have enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been a really good mix of getting exposure to all the different aspects of a transmission project and smaller assignments that I have been able to get my teeth into.
The last couple of months have gone very quickly, a normal week includes time spent working on project, meetings with a contractors, work spend on induvial assignments and normally a visit to a site, such as a substation or another location. I have found visits to substations and other sites particularly useful, coming from a mechanical background, to gain a visual understanding of the operation and scale of different components.
One of the reasons I would recommend the scheme is that it is split into different placements. This allows you develop the different competencies required for chartership, whilst gaining a broad overview of the business. In addition to this each engineering graduate is assigned a mentor who guides you the process of becoming a Chartered Engineer.
Everyone at SSE is supportive of the graduates, this has meant even though certain assignments have been challenging, you never feel out of your depth.
2016 - October
I've been with SSE for a little over a month now. It all started with a three day induction at SSE's Training Centre in Perth. It was great opportunity meet the other engineering graduates working across the country, as well finding out more on what we can expect. The event was fairly relaxed and everyone was very welcoming.
I, along with the other graduates, was paired up with a buddy, during the induction week, who has recently completed the graduate programme. He has been really helpful, passing on advice and explaining what to expect over the next two years. I have also been assigned a chartership mentor, it feels like SSE is very supportive of those wanting Chartered Engineer status, which is particularly important to me.
In my first month of work, I have been to each of the main offices in Scotland, had meetings with contractors and been given my first project. All of which have been a great way of introducing myself and learning more about how the business works. In the coming month I am looking forward to a site tour and induction to one of our largest substations and a trip to manufacturer in Durham.
In addition to the work within my placement, I have been working with the other graduates on the Dragon's Glen Challenge. The challenge is to create a product or service and run events to raise as much as possible for Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity. The project supported by business leaders across Scotland and SSE management, which makes it’s a valuable opportunity to network with influential people whilst raising funds for a very important cause.
Even though I have not been working for SSE long, what I can say is that working here is exciting, busy and challenging. You'll have no problem fitting in, everyone is very supportive and wants to see you progress, especially if you are keen to participate in all of the opportunities that are on offer.