Ruth Watson

Ruth Watson

NCE Apprentice Winner 2018

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Design, water

Career highlights

My working day

A day in my life as an apprentice is quite hard to describe as no two days are the same.

My days involve problem solving, technical calculations, design, planning, meetings and communication to the project team as well as the client. Every day, I coordinate my project, develop notional solutions to the client’s business risks, while considering commercial aspects of the project and ensuring that my milestones are met.

Being an apprentice, you’re constantly learning and pushing your limits. The great thing about being an apprentice is that everyone wants you to succeed. The company has invested in you and there is therefore continuous support and guidance in work and college.

I choose to do an apprenticeship because ….

I started to research apprenticeships whilst studying my A-Levels. At my school, apprenticeships weren’t advertised and it was expected that if you wanted to go on to further education you went to university. I was surprised to find that you could still go to college whilst learning on the job, and even get a degree – all fully funded by your employer. I was confused as to why apprenticeships weren’t spoken about, as you can still achieve a great qualification at the same time as getting a salary. For me, really appealing so I started my application!

The highlight of my apprenticeship is …

One of the highlights of my apprenticeship has been working on a really exciting reservoir safety project, from which I have been able to see my calculations and designs come to life and be built. From working on these schemes, it has helped me achieve NCE Apprentice of the Year (2018) and being selected to receive an ICE TQuest Scholarship.

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

If you like problem solving and want to make a difference, then civil engineering could be for you. An apprenticeship is a great alternative route into higher education whilst learning on the job and gaining work experience the entire time.

My career inspiration

There wasn’t one particular project or person that inspired me to become a civil engineer. It was a multiple different events and situations I experienced where civil engineering caught my eye.

I really enjoyed problem-solving therefore a career as an engineer suited me. I was drawn to civil engineering due to the ability to work on site or in an office.

I love the way that civil engineering is so broad, and it was exciting to think I could work in any of the sectors.

Ruth accepting her QUEST scholarship

Ruth accepting her QUEST scholarship


I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also... A planner, project manager, designer and a creator of innovative solutions to complex problems.

Ruth Watson

Civil engineer apprentice

What I love about being a civil engineer

It’s not just one job role. I didn’t know civil engineering was so broad. There are so many different sectors and opportunities.

I’ve only just scratched the surface of the water sector and I still have so much more to learn. Outlining what a civil engineer does on a day to day basis is very hard to describe. This is because being a civil engineer involves aspects of detailed design, calculations, planning, project management and more.

The challenge that civil engineering has helped me overcome

I have dyslexia and therefore writing reports and documents was always a challenge for me.

However, being an apprentice has enabled me to develop my writing skills and now I can write reports with ease.

This has also boosted my confidence in my written work and I’m very fortunate to have the support from my work and my college (Leeds College of Building).

The civil engineering myth I’d like to bust

Is that civil engineers must be good at maths. Yes, maths is a key aspect of civil engineering, but there’s so much more to it.

Rather than hardcore maths, it’s more problem-solving. How are we going to make this structure work? What components can we use to make this more sustainable? How will this impact the environment?

I’d recommend a career in civil engineering because

There is always a need for a civil engineer.

Civil engineering is so broad as it contains so many different aspects. It therefore always poses something new to consider and learn from.

The environment is constantly changing and therefore solutions and structures are constantly adapting.

As a civil engineer, you’re able to use problem-solving to create something that will last for the future.

The project, past or present, I wish I'd worked on

An engineering project that I would have loved to have worked on is the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam is a concrete arch gravity dam in the Colorado River in America.

The hydroelectric power generated from the 221m-high dam provides power for three states. I think it’s incredible that this structure was created in the 1930s without any of the modern technology we use today to design and construct structures today.

What gets me out of bed every morning?

The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that the work I do makes a difference to people’s lives.

I can improve our environment by designing and creating more efficient, safe, sustainable structures which will last for years to come.

My favourite projects

Through a carbon-web portal that my company has designed, I was able to show that in one reservoir alone we saved 700 tons of carbon emissions by using a new innovative optical fibre seepage monitoring technique on the earth embankment dam at Digley Reservoir.


I completed my A-levels in maths, physics and chemistry.

Considering the way I learn and my dyslexia, I decided to investigate apprenticeships.

I found that I was drawn to a civil engineering apprenticeships and applied. I’ve now been in the apprenticeship scheme for a year and a half, currently studying my HND (Higher National Diploma) for one more year before I do my top-up year at university to achieve my degree.

The most complex thing I’ve made out of Lego

I am really interested in American Football and I support the San Francisco 49ers.

Last year I built a Lego replica of my team’s helmet. This was made out of tiny pieces of Lego and was a lot harder than I expected. Overall it took me about a month to finally complete the helmet, before I used spray-on glue to fix it together (just in case I ever dropped it!)

I want to become a civil engineer.

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