Andy Dodson’s story

Tell us about your time at UCEM 

I joined the Army in 1997.  Whilst in the Army I had the opportunity to study an HND in construction.  Having completed the HND, I realised I wanted to learn more and wanted to be the first person in my family to get a degree.  My job in the Army meant I was incredibly busy and away overseas a lot.  I needed to find somewhere that would allow me to pursue an education whilst being flexible enough to accommodate my challenging work situation.  A colleague recommended CEM (as it was at the time) and I began to make enquires.  Instantly it appeared to fit the bill so I enrolled very quickly as I was going to be away on an operational tour when my first year commenced.  A very surreal experience was receiving a huge parcel of study folders at the forward operating base in Afghanistan where I was based.  Studying with CEM also put me back in contact with a former colleague who I’d served with but hadn’t seen for nearly 8 years.  The support throughout the course was excellent.  Work remained a challenge whilst serving, with frequent deployments although it was an amazing experience to be sat in the Ol Pejeta game reserve in Kenya writing up my dissertation, watching elephants heading to the watering hole at sunset whilst enjoying a very rare weekend off.  Results days were always nerve wracking, particularly in my final year.  The e-mail I received from Carmel Smith on 11 November 2011 was amazing, saying I had satisfied the requirements for award of BSc in Construction Management with the classification of first class.  The only down side was me having to put my hand in my pocket, as I had said the previous week if I got a first I would buy everyone in the bar a drink!  Attending graduation and formally receiving my degree was one of my proudest moments to date and one which will always bring a smile to my face.

I was in the process of leaving the Army and was still undecided about what career path I was going to settle on once I’d left.  During my resettlement process it had been suggested by several people that I should consider teaching.  I had briefly explored it but didn’t seriously consider it.  Then one Monday morning I was checking my e-mails when I looked at the CIOB Jobs notifications.  In there was a UCEM advert, looking for a tutor to join the Level 3 apprenticeship team.   My heart leapt: here was an opportunity for me to teach the next generation of construction professionals.  I then saw the closing date was that Monday at mid-day so I had a very rushed phone call with HR and got my application in.  Thankfully Nikki and Karl liked what they saw, interviewed me and offered me the job.  Stepping through the doors on 24 April 17, starting my first permanent civilian job was nerve wracking to put it mildly.  From the moment I started I felt part of the team.

I have many amazing memories already, almost all to do with student success.  Seeing my students grow in academic and personal confidence over the last year has been immensely satisfying, especially when you know you have played a part in them succeeding.  Whilst I know not all will go on to the Level 6 courses, the knowledge that they have now got a qualification that means they have the opportunity for sustainable employment is highly rewarding.  Earlier this year I received a very heart felt message of thanks from one of my students.  They had been going through an exceptionally challenging time and needed to resubmit all summative work if they were going to have a chance of progressing to the second year.  Over the course of the following few weeks I felt I got to know the individual well and I was really pleased to see them go forward.  This has given them a huge boost of confidence: they know they can do it and they can achieve.  I’m looking forward to seeing them further develop over the course of the year.  Being honoured with the Rising Star Award at the UCEM Teaching Excellence Awards this year was out of this world, particularly as the bulk of the nominations came from my students.

Tell us about your experiences since leaving UCEM 

Soon after I graduated, I was posted to Gibraltar.  I had a very diverse range of projects to work on, from building new office blocks and tunnel remediation all the way through to working out a humane way to stop the famous apes from damaging the training estate.  I then moved to Canada where I worked on projects in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet weather wise.  The knowledge I gained during my studies certainly aided me in picking up on the complexities of the projects and environments I was working in that much faster.

One of the real selling points of UCEM is the accreditation and I proudly became a Chartered Member of the CIOB in 2016.  Becoming Chartered has had a further bonus of allowing me to set up my own business, providing external verification services to the CIOB for their profession review process.