Blog - Engineering Graduates

Hear from some of our current crop of Engineering Graduates in our regularly updated blog below.


Angelos Alexandropoulos - Graduate Engineer, Transmission Major Projects

Introducing Angelos

Angelos Alexandropoulos For Web

Name: Angelos Alexandropoulos
Job: Graduate Engineer, Transmission Major Projects
Location: Perth


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.

John Coyle - Graduate Engineer, Networks

Introducing John

John Coyle For Web

Name: John Coyle
Job: Graduate Engineer, Transmission
Location: Glasgow


2017 - November

Upon completion of my construction and commissioning placements on site, the next step in my graduate programme was to return to the Glasgow office and begin my design placement within the SSEN engineering team. Over the past few months, my time has been spent primarily working on completing Works Information package details for an upcoming project tender.

I have been fortunate to be assigned some substantial engineering responsibility within my placement role, and some of my technical outputs have included preparing key documents such as Electrical Scope of Works specifications and Outline Commissioning Plans. In addition to these efforts, I also have accountability for co-ordinating the outputs of the wider project team in order to compile the complete Works Information in line with the programme schedule.

Last month I also had the opportunity to attend the EuroTechCon 2017 Conference, which was held at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow. The key topic of the event was Understanding and Implementing Asset Life Extension, and it included 3 days of presentations by delegates and industry experts across various fields in the energy business. There was also a fourth day allocated for graduates to attend an additional training seminar, which was also highly valuable.

The opportunities presented in the past few months have complemented my previous site experience well, and I feel that I have been able to apply a lot of my previous learning to inform contractual project improvements at an early stage of the project lifecycle. The accelerated learning path which is achievable via rotational placements is the principle of any graduate development programme, and I would recommend it to anyone as the ideal way to begin your engineering career.

2017 - October

With my Commissioning placement now coming to an end, and therefore also my time as a graduate engineer based wholly on-site, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my experience so far with SSEN in the past year.

First of all, I have managed to gain significant technical understanding throughout a series of project stages, starting with construction, through to mechanical installation, followed by electrical testing and then onto final commissioning and energisation. Exposure to multiple interfaces within a substation environment has been the ideal introduction for gathering a practical understanding of a range of areas. For example, experience with switchgear, transformers, underground cables, overhead lines, protection & control, and civil design – all within a project delivery environment – has enabled me to appreciate the huge learning potential which exists in this industry. In particular, I feel that this variety is a unique selling point for Transmission as a career path since it provides the possibility of a well-rounded engineering experience during a relatively short time on the graduate development scheme.    

On the other hand, I have also obtained some key experience from a project management perspective. This experience has enabled me to develop a level of insight into both programme and contractual project aspects that I don’t believe would have been possible had it not been for the opportunity to work as a site-based engineer for the past 12 months. Also, the chance to experience some of the long-term challenges of a large capital project (and contribute to the daily problem-solving that is required for its successful delivery) has been an invaluable experience for me as a graduate engineer. My next steps will be to apply my experience while learning new skills in the other placements I have co-ordinated to help continue my development in other areas of professional engineering competence.

2017 - September

With my Commissioning placement now coming to an end, and therefore also my time as a graduate engineer based wholly on-site, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my experience so far with SSEN in the past year.

First of all, I have managed to gain significant technical understanding throughout a series of project stages, starting with construction, through to mechanical installation, followed by electrical testing and then onto final commissioning and energisation. Exposure to multiple interfaces within a substation environment has been the ideal introduction for gathering a practical understanding of a range of areas. For example, experience with switchgear, transformers, underground cables, overhead lines, protection & control, and civil design – all within a project delivery environment – has enabled me to appreciate the huge learning potential which exists in this industry. In particular, I feel that this variety is a unique selling point for Transmission as a career path since it provides the possibility of a well-rounded engineering experience during a relatively short time on the graduate development scheme.    

On the other hand, I have also obtained some key experience from a project management perspective. This experience has enabled me to develop a level of insight into both programme and contractual project aspects that I don’t believe would have been possible had it not been for the opportunity to work as a site-based engineer for the past 12 months. Also, the chance to experience some of the long-term challenges of a large capital project, (and contribute to the daily problem-solving that is required for its successful delivery), has been an invaluable experience for me as a graduate engineer. My next steps will be to apply my experience while learning new skills in the other placements I have co-ordinated to help continue my development in other areas of professional engineering competence.

2017 - June

Around April time, shortly after my last update, I changed placement from site construction to the project commissioning team. Although this is a change of position, I have continued to be based on the same substation construction sites as before, and this has enabled me to have the advantage of continuity during the transition between placement roles.

This means that by September this year I will have been able to spend my first year in industry working on-site developing both skills and familiarity with the various stages of substation civil construction, mechanical and electrical installation, switchgear commissioning and site energisation. The following two Cyberhawk images illustrate the progress of Loch Buidhe over the relatively short time of my placements so far:

John Coyle _June 2017_1

John Coyle _Jun 2017_2

Above all, it has been particularly beneficial for my overall experience that the switch in placement reflects the current progression of the projects themselves. The unique opportunity for my placements to work in this way (so as to continue working with the same project teams) had been anticipated by both my business line manager and graduate scheme coordinator when I first joined SSE. The option of planning ahead with placements in this way is a key benefit of the Graduate Scheme, mainly because it enables you to identify a broad range of Professional Development objectives in advance and update your progress gradually as a variety of engineering experience is gathered.

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

Introducing Laurence

Laurence Kibblewhite _For Web

Name: Laurence Kibblewhite
Job: Graduate Engineer, Networks
Location: Aberdeen


2017 - October

I’ve now reached the end of my construction placement and first year with SSE!

My construction placement at Melgarve Substation continued until the end of August. As I was based on site I was involved in day to day problem solving and managing the interfaces between different contractors, which has improved both my technical understanding and commercial awareness. As time progressed I was given more responsibility by the project team, as a result for the coming months I will be overseeing a project to replace nomenclature on Beauly-Denny, one of the largest and most remote overhead lines in Scotland.

Since the beginning of September I’ve been based on the Dorenell Wind Farm Connection project. The connection will be the first overhead line in the UK to be made of composite poles rather than traditional methods such as wooden poles or steel lattice towers. I have been encouraged to help develop solutions to the teething problems that arise when bringing a innovative design into construction. This is the first new overhead line installation I have been involved with, it has been particularly interesting to see how a project with effectively over 100 small construction sites is managed.

This week I shall begin my commissioning placement. Over the next few months I will be spending time across a number of different projects, whilst also continuing to oversee the Beauly-Denny project. Over the course of the graduate scheme in Transmission you’re exposed to the entire lifecycle of a project, commissioning being the final stage, this I believe is one of best attributes of the scheme, by the end of the two years I will have had exposure to each stage of a project, experience which could not be gained over such a short timeframe otherwise.

2017 - July

The construction placement was one the reasons I was attracted to the Networks graduate scheme. I’m now based on the Stronelairg-Melgarve project, which is facilitating the connection of Stronelairg Windfarm.   The project consists of four sub projects, Stronelairg 33kV/132kV substation, 10km of 132kV cable, Melgarve 132kV/400kV substation and an alteration to the Beauly-Denny overhead line. The scale of the project and rate of progress makes it an exciting team to be a part of.

I spent my first six weeks on the project at Stronelairg Substation, focused on civil works. I was involved in a wide range of work, in the morning I could be involved in contractual decisions with the project manager, at lunch I might be out on site and the afternoon I could be in coordination meetings with the different contractors. This has given me a good overview of the project and the broad range of work has helped me towards meeting multiple criteria for Chartered Engineer status.

In the last fortnight I moved to Melgarve to focus on the mechanical and electrical installation of the substation. The site will be one of the only 400kV substations on our transmission network making it just the kind of unique and valuable experience the scheme offers the graduates. Time on site has been really valuable; there is always something to learn from the experienced tradespersons on site. During this placement I’ve gained a better understanding of the practicalities of a construction site and how seemingly small decisions during the design phase can have a big impact on site.

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.

Generation and Renewables

Ruth McKelvie - Graduate Trainee Engineer

Introducing Ruth

Ruth Mc Kelvie Head And Shoulders

Name: Ruth McKelvie
Job: Graduate Engineer
Location: Perth


2017 - October

I’m now coming to the end of my Design placement, which has been split between Strategic Investment and Submarine Cables.

In Strategic Investment, I’ve been working on a substation replacement project. I’ve learned about the processes, from initial concept through the final design, and the required construction and financial documentation.

Engagement is vital to a safe design, not only with designers and protection engineers, but with the local operational staff because they will be working on the plant. We went out on site to review the substation; you need this experience to see any practical constraints.

The Submarine Cable team have been keeping me busy. Next year, we are planning major inspections on a number of cables. I’ve been responsible for collating the information required before these works commence. The variety of locations and conditions present many challenges.

On Tuesday 17 October, SSE hosted an Equate Scotland “Industry Insights” event to promote women having a career in engineering. It was a really enjoyable evening and I spoke to many students who are interested in applying for the Graduate Scheme.

Next month, I’m moving to the Depot for a placement with the Project Delivery team and am really looking forward to more onsite experience.

2017 - August

I’m now in one month into my Design placement and nearly one year into the SSE Graduate Programme!

My first placement was in Investment Planning, where I had the chance to work with the Submarine Cable Electricity Team. Due to my interest in these projects, I decided to return and work with their Design Engineers.

SSE Distribution have 111 submarine cables that connect fifty-nine Scottish islands to the mainland and provide electricity to their homes and businesses. As these cables naturally come to the end of their operational life, the team have to plan major replacement works to ensure the islands have a reliable electricity supply. In June we went out on site to carry out shore end inspections of cables that are due for replacement.

I am also working with the Strategic Investment team, who carry out the designs for our substation replacement and refurbishment works. I am learning about types of plant, substation layout, protection and communications. This week we are going to Mallaig for a site visit to one of our planned replacement projects.

I am looking forward to learning more about the Design process over the next few months.

2017 - May

I’m in my final week of my Future Networks placement. Over the past four months, I’ve been working along side The National HVDC Centre project team to get the Centre ready for business. Part of my job was to ensure the required documentation and workshops were complete prior to the project moving on to the next stage; from construction to commissioning, and then to operation.

The grand opening of The National HVDC Centre was held on Wednesday 26 April and was attended by Jamie Hepburn MSP as well as representatives from SSE, Scottish Power and National Grid.


As I mentioned in my previous blog, the number of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) schemes in Great Britain (GB) is set to increase and there are a number of unknowns regarding the control interactions of multiple HVDC schemes in proximity.

The aim of the Centre is to support and de-risk the deployment of future HVDC schemes. The Centre combines a Real Time Digital Simulator (RTDS®), which models the GB electricity network accurately in real-time, and replica hardware of the control and protection systems used in HVDC schemes. This enables the Centre to accurately test the actual controls that will be deployed on the network.

Ever year, Ofgem run the Electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC), which is an opportunity for all GB electricity network licensees to compete for funding for the development of new technologies. The National HVDC Centre was a 2013 NIC project and I was interested to learn more about this process and future SSE innovations. I am now working with the team on the NIC bid for 2017.

I look forward to starting my new placement in Design next week.

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Mar 2017_Pic1

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Jan 2017_3

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Jan 2017_For Web

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Jan 2017_2

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.

Pic 1_ROVOPs WorkshopROVOP's Workshop

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.

Pic 2_ROVOPSimulatorROVOP Simulator

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Blog Pic2

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.

Ruth Mc Kelvie Blog Pic1

Gerry McDonnell - Graduate Engineer, Generation

Introducing Gerry

Gerry Mc Donnell For Web

Name: Gerry McDonnell
Job: Graduate Engineer, Generation
Location: Glasgow


2017 - August

I am now half way through my secondment to SSE Enterprise, working with the Distributed Energy team - it has definitely been a very different experience to previous roles.

I have been used to working with large power stations over 500MW, around 300 times more powerful than a standard district heating system in London. Added to that a different team structure, different engineers and working in what is essentially a different company it has been an extremely worthwhile experience.

My role has involved developing a summary of all of the sites that Distributed Energy operates. These are referred to as “Energy Centres” and usually comprise of boilers, 1 or 2 gas powered reciprocating engines (also called CHPs) and a thermal store system which aims to supply water at a certain temperature to residential and commercial customers to provide a hot water supply and space heating. Some of our sites also provide chilled water through electric chillers or ground source heat pumps. My work has involved tracking down what data we have available for each site, how each site is laid out and what we need to do to allow for proper performance analysis going forward.

Gerry Mc Donnell _Aug 2017

A new experienced performance engineer has just joined the team so I look forward to working with him for the remainder of my placement and hopefully I can help to increase profit made from some of our sites!

2017 - July

It has been an extremely busy time for me over the past few months. My placement at Great Island came to a close with the station outage, it was great to see all the planning SSE have put in place over 4 months come into effect. It was another fantastic learning experience as I was able to observe all kinds of work being carried out including welding, Non Destructive Testing and much more. I also got to visit confined spaces such as the Gas Turbine exhaust, the cooling water chambers and the inside of the Heat Recovery Steam Generator! Two other graduates, Nic and Dan, also came over to start their placement at the station, which meant we had a weeks crossover to pass on as much of our learning as possible to them before we left.

I then went back to Glasgow for a quick six week placement with the Performance & Reliability team. The purpose of this team is to provide technical support to stations and sites around the business. The engineers have a wide ranging scope of abilities and experience between them, therefore they can provide technical assistance with just about any project. My project involved developing a report which aims to set out solutions to a problem with the auxiliary cooling water system at Great Island. It has been great to be able to offer input to the project with my knowledge of the station at Great Island, having just spent four months there. I have been working on this project alongside engineers who have been great in guiding me forward.

Gerrymcdonnell July2017 Forweb

In the last week I have moved down to London to join Enterprise for a three month placement. I was keen to get out of Wholesale at least once to visit another part of the business. SSE Enterprise (amongst many other things) operates Energy Centres in Central London which provide heating and cooling to residential and commercial properties. This again is a new type of system to learn and new people to work with, so I am very much looking forward to the rest of this summer.

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.

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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

Introducing James

James Williamson For Web

Name: James Williamson
Job: Graduate Engineer, Generation
Location: Glasgow


2017 - July

Scotland has a rich history of Hydro Generation, utilising the country’s mountainous landscape, expansive Glens and fast flowing rivers. The Hydro Development Act of 1943 sought to bring ‘Power to the Glens’ by developing large scale Hydro Power projects all across the country. 74 years on, SSE now owns and operates over 50 Hydro electric power stations throughout Scotland.

My current placement within SSE’s Renewable Programs Team has allowed me to visit several of these stations and work on some really interesting projects.

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Tummel Power Station is one of the oldest stations in operation and still uses the original turbines installed in 1935. Considering the turbines are now celebrating their 82nd birthday there is no surprise that they need a bit of TLC from time to time. Currently I’m working on a major repair to Unit 2 following some vibration issues earlier last year. The work requires disassembly of the turbine and bearings, investigatory works inside the machine, reinstatement of the bearings and return to service tests.

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My work during this placement has allowed me to visit numerous Hydro stations around Scotland and experience first-hand how engineering solutions are developed across such a diverse and complex assortment of assets within SSE’s Hydro fleet. Not only have I been involved design, planning and management work but I’ve also had the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty, which for an engineer like me is the best way to learn!

2017 - May

Spending the last 5 months working at Bhlaraidh Wind Farm development site has been a fantastic opportunity to get involved with the construction of a major renewables project. I’ve been involved with the commissioning process for the existing seven wind turbines (which required some climbing) and also had a chance to witness the construction of several others. As a graduate engineer, I feel that I have a licence on site to poke my nose into different jobs and ask plenty of questions, something which both SSE and its subcontractors were more than happy to accommodate.

My next placement is to be based out of Clunie Power Station, working with SSE’s hydro generation fleet within the newly formed M&E Programs team.

Having grown up in Perthshire, I was always interested in how hydro generation worked and had always wanted to get inside one of the stations and have a dig around the machinery. 15 years later, I’m now getting paid to do exactly that! With the hydro fleet needing continuous care and maintenance this placement will be a great opportunity to be on the ground getting plenty of onsite experience (and maybe get my hands dirty from time to time). My main work package will focus on developing refurbishment/replacement scopes for MIVs and relief valves in line with our maintenance program.

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.

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Jameswilliamson Feb2017 Blogpic

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.

James Williamson Dec 2016

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.