This week is Armed Forces Week. Kier has a long-established relationship with the military services and we are committed to the Armed Forces Covenant, supporting the services community with opportunities for meaningful and sustainable employment.
Here, James Cox, design engineer in our Kier Infrastructure Professional Services business, shares an insight into his unique career path and explains how he has been able balance working for Kier alongside an active and varied military career.
"I started my engineering career at the University of Bristol, enrolling in an undergraduate civil engineering degree back in 2006. I always had a keen interest in the uniformed services coming from a military family, so I took the opportunity and joined the University Officer Training Corp (UOTC). Whist at the UOTC I gained a valuable insight to the military whilst improving my confidence, leadership and management skills in a challenging and competitive environment. I was also provided with many unique opportunities that would otherwise have not been open to me during this time, travel abroad with the regular army to Germany and Canada, as well as deploying on a joint exercise with our French counterparts.
"After I had completed my undergraduate studies, I was awarded a PhD scholarship to research the design and long-term serviceability of offshore wind turbine foundations.
"While undertaking my PhD research I transferred to the Royal Engineers to make better use of my engineering knowledge. Joining the Royal Engineers gave me an opportunity to extend my existing military skillset, allowing me to obtain my combat engineering qualification and pass the officer selection board. My time with the reserves provided a good counter point to my academic studies, grounding much of my knowledge and allowing me to work with a wide array of individuals who I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity too.
"After finishing my PhD, I joined an engineering consultancy as a geotechnical engineer working within a specialist energy geotechnics team. I worked on a number of prestigious and interesting projects.
"Even though I had greater demands on my time working a full-time job, I was able to successfully balance both my civilian and military careers.
"In 2018 I was presented with the opportunity to deploy with the regular army as a military engineer to support the UN mission in South Sudan. Some of the tasks we were assigned included the construction of accommodation, provision of drinking water, creation of anti-tank defences and a new helicopter landing pad. These taskings were made more complex due to poor infrastructure, long supply lines and ongoing unrest within the country. During the deployment, my background as a civil engineer proved to be invaluable. I was able to offer much needed support to the surveying teams, provide technical guidance on the construction of foundations and earthworks, for example.
"Shortly after returning to the UK from South Sudan, the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country. At the request of central government, the military was asked to provide to aid in the national response. My unit was assigned to the Welsh government to act as a construction task force. Our role was to construct facilities critical to the national response. This gave me the opportunity to lead a team of engineers and directly contribute to one of the largest peacetime operations on UK soil.
"When I returned to work I decided to make the move to Kier and take up a design role within Kier Infrastructure, as part of Kier Professional Services (KPS). KPS is Kier’s in-house engineering consultancy business, providing design solutions, technical advice and engineering support for Kier’s other internal businesses.
A key part of my decision to change jobs was the fact that Kier were committed to the Armed Forces Covenant. This gave me the confidence that I could continue my military career in parallel to my main job.
"Since joining KPS I have been lucky enough to work on a number of challenging and prestigious projects. These projects include HS2, Marylebone Square, Toddbrook Dam and a number of Environment Agency framework projects.
"The career change from being a predominantly permanent works engineer to a temporary works engineer was challenging, but I believe the resilience and depth of skill I’ve gained from my time in the military stood me in good stead and allowed me to adapt well to the changes the role demanded of me.
"Throughout my time with KPS, they have supported my career development, both as a civil engineer and as a Royal Engineer. I have been provided with the time, guidance and work experience to work towards becoming chartered civil engineer. Furthermore, I have also been given the time to undertake military courses, providing me with the skills develop and take on my new role as a section commander.
"My parallel careers have provided me with a number of opportunities and skills I would not have otherwise been able to achieve with a more conventional career path. Both my civilian and military experiences have complemented each other.”
For more information on Kier’s commitment to the Armed Forces community, please click here.