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Young dad wins first McAlpine Scholarship at Abertay

18 August 2016

Tom Taylor - McAlpine Scholarship main

A young dad has become the first-ever recipient of a new scholarship being offered exclusively to students at Abertay University by the renowned engineering firm Sir Robert McAlpine.

Tom Taylor, 23, has been awarded the merit-based scholarship because of his determination to pursue a career in engineering despite the odds being stacked against him.

He was disappointed with his exam results from school, leaving with only five GCSEs.

However, determined to provide a secure future for his children, he enrolled at college, gaining A grades for each course he took, and will articulate into the third year of Abertay’s BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering this September.  

Tom is currently completing the first of his two summer placements with the McAlpine team working on the DC Thomson build in Dundee.

Sir Robert McAlpine are behind some of the most famous structures in the UK, including Wembley Stadium, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, The Dorchester Hotel, the O2 Arena and Olympic Stadium, the M74 extension in Glasgow, the Eden Project, and the regeneration of the Dundee Waterfront.

Although Sir Robert McAlpine offer a range of scholarships to student engineers, they have not had a formal link with a Scottish university like this before. 

Aileen Louden, HR Manager for Sir Robert McAlpine, explains why they started the scholarship:  'Sir Robert McAlpine are keen to build relationships with universities who provide us with high calibre graduates, with a degree that fits well with our business needs. We feel that Abertay ticks these boxes. Indeed a number of our senior managers are themselves products of Abertay.

'One of the things that makes Abertay engineering students stand out for us is the practical work experience they gain while studying: as part of the BSc, students at the university must complete a three-month work placement during the second semester of their third year.

'We find that graduates who have previous site experience like this slot into the team and start to contribute more quickly than those who have not had this opportunity.'

The new scholarship is open to any student entering year three of the BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering at Abertay.

It is merit-based, aimed at students who can demonstrate excellent exam and coursework results, as well as determination to excel in their final two years at university.

As well as a financial stipend of £1,700 per year, the recipient must take part in two paid summer work placements at McAlpine, each lasting a minimum of eight weeks.

Students who fail to achieve the required results to progress on the course, or who do not complete the required placements, will cease to receive further money form the scholarship fund.

However, those who continue to excel, will be offered the opportunity to take part in the company’s Graduate Scheme at the end of their final year.

Aileen explains what made Tom stand out for them: 'We decided to offer this scholarship because we want to attract the best talent for the future of Sir Robert McAlpine as the company nears its 150th birthday. We also hope that it will help raise undergraduate awareness of the great careers available to them in our business. 

'In return, we hope that by offering financial support in this way, successful applicants will be able to focus completely on achieving the most during their time at Abertay.

'The calibre of candidates who applied for this first scholarship was exceptional, and choosing one person was an extremely difficult decision.

'Tom stood out for us because of his dedication and determination – for someone who, by his own admission, did not do well at school to complete first an NPA, then NC and finally an HNC and HND with an A grade, before getting onto the degree course, shows his real commitment to his chosen career path. To achieve these results from where he started, we felt, was exceptional.

'We have also offered a summer placement to one of the other candidates that we interviewed. Indeed, if we’d had another suitable opportunity we would have had no hesitation in offering a place to the third shortlisted candidate too. This underlines the quality of the candidates shortlisted.'

Tom explains his motivation for applying and what it felt like when he found out he had been selected as the recipient of the scholarship: 'At school, I wasn’t the most academic student and failed to achieve good grades. Engineering wasn’t something I was interested in back then because when I thought about the construction industry it was bricklayers, joiners, painters, plumbers and electricians that went through my mind. I had no in-depth idea of what an engineer was or the role they played in creating our built environment.

'I did a course in construction though when I moved to Dundee, and was chosen to take part in a three-month work placement through the college with a local joinery firm and it was there that I decided a trade in joinery wasn’t for me.

'Instead I wanted to be able to help take an empty piece of land, and turn it into something spectacular. To stand back and say to myself ‘I helped create that’ – to tell my family and my children that what they are looking at was once nothing.

“I have a four-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old step son, and a massive motivation for me has been to provide for them, pursue a stable career and be a great role model for them. At the end of the day all of what I do is for my family and to make them proud.

'When I found out about the scholarship with Sir Robert McAlpine I didn’t hesitate to get my application in straight away. I didn’t think for a second it would be me that was offered the opportunity, but remained hopeful that the hard work I had put in would all be worthwhile. I had already done a lot of research into multiple large contractors for my college work so I knew how successful Sir Robert McAlpine was and the projects they had done, and this made me all the more determined to push for this opportunity. 

'When I received the phone call offering me the position, the feeling was exhilarating. I believe this opportunity has set me up for life: the skills and experience I will gain working for Sir Robert McAlpine are impeccable and it just shows that even if you start with nothing, as long as you have the drive and determination to keep moving forward, you will succeed, you can progress and achieve anything you want.'

If you are at college and would like to study Civil Engineering at Abertay, visit our Bsc (Hons) Civil Engineering page.

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