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
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.