16th November 2020

Tony Gaines talks furlough, MICE and moles

Senior CAD Technician Tony Gaines from McAlpine Design Group took advantage of his time on furlough to add to his professional qualifications. (He also learnt a fair bit about garden moles … but that’s another story!)

Like many of us across the construction industry, Tony was put on furlough leave earlier this year. 

Tony spent his time at home completing his EngTech MICE qualification, which is awarded by ICE and means he is now registered with the Engineering Council and a member of ICE at technician grade.

We caught up with him to find out more about his career to date and what his new qualification means to him.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background and how did you get into construction?

I grew up in West London and got an apprenticeship to become a draughtsman. Once I’d qualified, I decided to travel the world backpacking. I never know when to leave a party and after 12 years travelling, working abroad and circumnavigating the globe, I returned to the UK and joined the McAlpine family. I have now been at Sir Robert McAlpine for almost 20 years in the Design Group CAD department, and like I say, I never know when to leave a party!

Can you tell us a little about your role?

Within McAlpine Design Group I sit in the CAD team as a Senior CAD Technician, working with 2D AutoCAD and 3D Revit drawings. Within the group we provide a wide range of services and support for sites who require anything from temporary works or finite analysis and value engineering to civil engineering road and drain design and geological analysis or even full architectural and structural designs. We get to see a lot of diverse and interesting work, a lot of which is on iconic UK buildings, which makes it even more rewarding.

So what happened on furlough?

When Covid arrived and I was furloughed I felt a bit useless. But then I realised it gave me some breathing space to finally look at the requirements for the EngTech qualification, start the five essays required and remember all the CPDs I had attended. It was very therapeutic and a moment of clarity to realise how many CPDs I had sat through and I actually enjoyed trawling through the technical part of my brain to remember engineering scenarios that would allow my membership.

Was looking to become an ICE Technician Member the next natural step in your professional development?

As CAD Technicians we are always learning, either new software programmes which make our jobs easier, or developing our technical abilities through lunchtime seminars and Continual Professional Development (CPD) activities. What EngTech has given me is a consolidation of my formal training and the experiences I have gained from many years in the industry. I am very proud of the achievement and thrilled to be a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Was there anyone you could lean on for support?

Within McAlpine Design Group, we have many members of the Institution, so finding a couple of mentors who were willing to propose me and support me through the application process was simple. It’s quite difficult learning now I am over 50. However, having the support and mock interviews really helped me realise it’s a very serious club I am wanting to join and I had to up my game and prove my technical abilities.

How do you feel about this latest step in your development?

It means a lot to me to be part of the Institution. Many years ago, my careers officer at Chiswick school showed me a picture of two civil engineers standing on a half-built bridge, peering over the edge, planning what to do next … It looked so enigmatic and intriguing it appealed to my inquisitive sense of adventure. After a few years in the industry, I can now fully comprehend what they were thinking!!!!

What next in terms of learning?

I will keep my membership up to date then continue to do what I have always done, attend seminars (with lunch provided) be the best draughtsman that my abilities will allow, and mentor the younger technicians who wish to follow the professional route.

What about outside work – what do you get up to?

Outside work I am usually very busy. I help organise and do the company long distance charity cycle rides we hold most years. I also run marathons and swim at a county level. The band I play in, pre-Covid (that’s not the name of the band) was getting really popular, and keeping up with two grown sons is exhausting it itself.

However, since moving to the country with my partner it seems gardening will be keeping me busy. And we have a mole! Its tunnelling abilities are astounding and unpredictable. But I think I have jumped up and down in the garden enough now and encouraged him (or her) to move next door. I was rewarded the other morning with the sight of the biggest mole hill on my neighbour’s lawn. It’s nice to share.


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