Tom O’Dwyer, Civil Engineering Advanced Level Apprentice
// Mott MacDonald
“I can honestly say that I loved every single lesson and that DEC has changed the course of my life.”
What got you interested in DEC?
“The Design Engineer Construct! (DEC) GCSE course had been running in my school for a few years, as part of the DT rotation.
“I was lucky enough to do a 10-week DEC taster while in year eight (aged twelve), where I first learnt about the Built Environment and the job roles within it.
“I found these taster sessions really interesting, it was exciting to learn about the industry and to create models, which was very different from any other subject at school.”
What are your special, stand-out DEC memories?
“When it comes to DEC and special stand out moments I have so many, such as site visits I went on, the people I met and meeting the industry professionals who visited our school.”
“The two moments that stand out the most are having the opportunity as a 15-year-old to go on a week’s work experience with the BMB Team at Thames Tideway project, working on the super sewer. This was such a great experience and a real eye-opener to what happens on-site an operational site.
“All of the theory that I had been learning during my year 10 GCSE lessons came to life, this practical experience certainly helped to enhance the classroom theory and help me to get an A*.
“As part of this work experience, I got to use industry-standard software and surveying equipment. It was while on work experience that I was encouraged by Tom Lane (from the Tideway Skills and Employment team) to enter the DEC/MOBIE modular student accommodation design competition, which I then went on to win.
“This led to my second stand out moment going to Teesside University and presenting to industry professionals including Architect, TV presenter and competition judge George Clarke.”
Photo credit: Tom O’Dwyer, 14-16 age group winner of Class Of Your Own’s Offsite Student Accommodation Challenge, pictured here with judges George Clarke, Architect and TV Presenter and Mark Southgate, Chief Executive of MOBIE.
What is your advice to other students considering DEC?
“DEC is unlike any other subject you will ever do, it has taught me so much about the Built Environment and the industry as a whole. Even now two years into my apprenticeship, I still find myself using the terminology and skills I learnt in my DEC lessons.
“It has opened up so many doors for me giving me so much experience, I know there are not too many eighteen-year-olds working in a job that they love as a direct result of what they learnt during their GCSE’s.”
“Taking the DEC course is the reason why I am in the job I love today.
“I have just completed my two-year Level 3 Civil Engineering apprenticeship and I am now moving on to the degree apprenticeship.”
“You simply don’t get this type of exposure, or access to any industry from any other subject.
“Most people I speak to at work, have gone into this industry because they know someone, a parent or relative who works within the Built Environment. Both of my parents worked in banking, so a career in the Built Environment probably would never have crossed my mind, if it hadn’t been for this course.
“There are thousands of different job roles linked to this industry, with many crying out for young talent and it’s not just architecture and bricklaying as most people assume!”
What difference has DEC made to you personally?
“DEC has opened up so many doors for me, when at work experience, speak to working professionals, on-site or even at my job interview. Most industry professionals are so impressed to hear that you’ve been using industry-standard software at school since the age of twelve.
“The teacher lead conversations that we had during our lessons about site constraints, planning regulations and government acts, are all the bases for what I do in my job role today.
“I remember feeling so unconfident making my first presentation in the classroom in front of my teachers and classmates, now presentations are a regular theme of my role and nothing to fear. I am so glad I got to practice this skill in the classroom.”
DEC is not just about completing a GCSE course it’s the soft skills, the knowledge and the confidence it gives you, these are all employment traits that industries need, and this course offers.
What his employer says
“We recognise the value of the Design Engineer Construct! (DEC) Learning Programme and corresponding qualifications, and have actively supported creator and founder Alison Watson and her Class Of Your Own team for many years.
Mott MacDonald was the first official adopter of a DEC school in 2012, and have since adopted schools across the UK. We are now working with Class Of Your Own to expand our reach internationally.
We believe DEC offers strong routes to technical and professional occupations in architecture, engineering, digital technology and construction and have recruited apprentices directly from DEC schools.
Their involvement in DEC has provided a valuable foundation to their start in the company.”
Julie Dakin, Metro & Civil Regional Director