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NEWS > Careers > Rachel Attwood PGS 2008 - 2015

Rachel Attwood PGS 2008 - 2015

The idea of a career in engineering was sparked by a 'flexible learning day' in Year 8 where the whole year group spent the day designing and making rolled paper tube bridges!
7 Feb 2021
Written by Rachel Attwood
United Kingdom
Rachel Attwood class of 2015
Rachel Attwood class of 2015

I suppose I was always destined for a career in engineering. My Dad, a draughtsman for a local mining firm, always challenged me to think about how things worked and wrote out multiplication and division questions to keep me entertained on long car journeys. It was at Pate's, however, that the pieces came together to nurture this interest in maths and asking 'why' and 'what if' into a plan for my future. In year 10, Mrs Furze took us for a PSHCE lesson and instructed us to go to the careers library and 'pick a career' and this is when I stumbled upon the ideas of civil engineering and architecture. Thinking back from this point, a 'flexible learning day' in year 8 where the whole year group spent the day designing and making rolled paper tube bridges was probably the spark that started the fire. 


A family friend recommended the Smallpeice trust to me - short residential courses in the summer holidays, based at universities around the UK to give 15-17 year olds an insight into what engineering is and what a career might involve. I attended two courses, one about railway engineering where we designed a crumple zone for a train, and one about structural engineering which featured another bridge designing activity. By year 12 I was firmly set on the path to becoming a civil/structural engineer. I chose to do an EPQ linked to civil/structural engineering so that I could demonstrate to my chosen universities that I had a passion for engineering. I researched the Forth Road Bridge and wrote about some of the problems that have arisen since its construction and what can be learnt from these mistakes from an engineering perspective. I showcased my research around a scale model of the bridge - the final piece was still, when I last checked, in Mr Worth's office! Working on this project lead to what, on reflection, was a truly extraordinary 24 hours where my dad drove us from Tewkesbury to Edinburgh for a one night stay to take photos of the bridge from every conceivable angle and visit a museum in Queensferry with an exhibition about the history of the bridge. I'm lucky to have such supportive and dedicated parents!


After I left Pate's in 2015 I started studying Engineering at Cambridge university with a joint sponsorship from the Institution of Civil Engineers and Graham Construction (thanks to Mr Worth for helping with my application). Fast forward to today I am a site engineer with Graham Construction with three summer internships and approaching 18 months of full-time experience under my belt. I have worked on civil engineering projects covering the energy, railway and maritime sectors, in Kenilworth (Warwickshire), Gloucester, Middlesbrough, Tilbury (Essex) and now Swansea. Although the direction of my path within civil engineering has been fine tuned over the past few years, I'm still as passionate about being a civil engineer as I was when I first landed on the idea nearly 10 years ago - I have Pate's to thank for starting the fire and for helping it grow.

Do take a few minutes to watch Rachel's 5 minute video about her career - it can be found on the Careers page.



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