James Gibbons

James Gibbons

Apprentice Civil Engineer with Arup

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Design, construction, environment

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

Having studied Mechanical Engineering for 2 years at Weston College prior to starting at Arup, my HNC qualification gave me a basic understanding of civil engineering principles.

I am now expanding my knowledge and skills through my part time degree. As an apprentice at Arup I work four days a week and study at university on day release. I'm now in the third year of a Civil and Environmental Engineering Degree at University of West of England.

My typical working day

As an apprentice at Arup I work four days a week and study at university on day release. On a day-to-day basis I am responsible for the CAD output and management in the Bristol Infrastructure team.

I work with engineers and technicians to produce a variety of highways, drainage and utility proposals to our clients and am gradually progressing onto more complex engineering tasks.

I have frequent involvement with local authority adoption packages where I am exposed to highway and drainage design. I also have a lead role in managing external files and project set-up within my team.


Civil engineers are responsible for changing the world we live in; designing solutions that are safer and more efficient as well as adapting our infrastructure to withstand the changing environment.

James Gibbons

Arup civil engineering apprentice

I choose to do an apprenticeship because ….

I have always had a clear passion for engineering and design, as my childhood aspiration was to become an architect. Throughout my level 3 studies, my eyes were opened to the wide range of opportunities that engineering had to offer. With the desire to combine my interest of technical design and construction, civil engineering was a clear career path for me.

The highlight of my apprenticeship is …

My most enjoyable moment so far was delivering a 10-minute speech on how civil engineers should take a leadership role in tackling the climate crisis. This was part of the judging process for New Civil Engineer Apprentice of the Year award. This not only motivated me to carry out extensive research on the climate crisis but also gave me the opportunity to present something I’m passionate about to a board of senior judges from across the engineering industry.

What would you say to anyone considering a civil engineering apprenticeship?

Civil engineering is an industry that can be challenging, exciting and rewarding with such a wide variety of work ranging from structures, foundations and infrastructure to energy, research and environmental impact. Civil engineers are also responsible for changing the world we live in; designing solutions that are safer and more efficient as well as adapting our infrastructure to withstand the changing environment.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer or technician?

My inspiration to become a civil engineer grew when I was lucky enough to carry out work experience at Bristol City`s Ashton Gate stadium during the construction of the new Lansdown stand. I was able to shadow the site engineer and get hands on setting out the foundations which is when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in civil engineering.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineering apprentice, but I’m also …

A STEM Ambassador trying to encourage students of all ages to follow in my footsteps and pursue a rewarding career in civil engineering.

What about being a civil engineer apprentice gets you out of bed each morning?

What gets me out of bed in the morning is the amount of opportunities available to develop my career and succeed in my role. There are always ways to improve what you have done before to make design processes quicker and more efficient.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

I was not aware of the efforts being made by civil engineers to tackle the climate emergency. Due to the severity of the issue it is reassuring to see so many innovative designs that have been making a real difference across the country from sustainable drainage to offshore wind farms.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

I would have liked the opportunity to work on the HS2 route studies. HS2 is a very high-profile project which Arup have been heavily involved in studying route alignment options and solutions for the 400kph high speed line. I see HS2 as an essential project for the long term sustainable benefit of the UK and to be a part of its design and construction would give me a great sense of personal satisfaction.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust?

I would like to bust the myth that all apprenticeships are considered as the ‘easy’ route and prove that apprentices can be equally if not more successful than those taking traditional education routes.

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal hurdles/ difficulties?

Throughout school and college, I always struggled with confidence. Since working in civil engineering I have had several opportunities to take myself out of my comfort zone and deliver presentations to large groups of senior engineers from across the industry. I also take the time to regularly volunteer as a STEM ambassador encouraging students to pursue a rewarding career in STEM. These opportunities have significantly improved my confidence in and out of the workplace.

Anything else? i.e. personal causes, hobbies

When I’m not at work or studying I’m trying to learn to speak Cantonese as I would like to experience work in Asia.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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