Angel Maynard from Connell Sixth Form College, our 2019 Leidos UK Student of the Year, shares how her work placement and mentoring at Kier Construction gave her the skills, confidence and opportunity to kickstart a rewarding future as an apprentice at Leidos

The journey that I’ve been on has been magical and eye-opening. It’s turned the world of work from something that was once scary into something which is now exciting, I’m really looking forward to finding out what the future holds.

When Maureen, the careers lead at my college, first approached me about Career Ready I was quite unsure and actually a little bit nervous because it’s a big commitment to uphold a yearlong programme. Actually having to organise a meeting, when you can just about phone the doctors to arrange an appointment, was definitely one of the challenges I knew I was going to face. But completing Career Ready and working with Kier Construction has been an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m very glad that I didn’t pass it up.

The initial meeting for the programme was where I thought what have I gotten myself into here, construction? Does Maureen expect me to be interested in laying bricks? Getting my shoes dirty? Wear a high visibility jacket? I refuse to get dirty, I love getting my nails done!

I have been on a very bumpy journey throughout the Career Ready programme, but I was supported 110% of the way by my family, my amazing dad and my wonderful mentors Danielle and Lara. Both of my mentors helped me to see my full potential and taught me the importance of showing myself some love every once in a while – so I now always make sure that I have a Netflix and food day. The programme has been spectacular and I’d do it all over again!

The moment when I realised that I would enjoy the programme was when I met my mentor Danielle Rowley for the first time at my college and it was from there that my interest in construction grew and my perception changed dramatically. I know that if I need support in the future that Danielle will be there for me.

Construction was most definitely not something I was interested in at first. But there wasn’t one part of my work experience at Kier that I didn’t enjoy as all the different departments offered insightful knowledge about their job role. Now when I think of construction all I can think of is the opportunities it has brought, as well as the skills I have developed. I have built professional relationships that I will cherish for a long time.

I was also lucky enough to take part in a summer construction camp run by Wates Group which further increased my new found love for construction. As part of the camp, we were assigned a challenge that involved planning, designing, constructing and explaining an original build of a part for a space near the River Thames.

As a result of working together, the team was awarded the best concept due to the in-depth explanation of what we designed and why. Being part of the Wates summer camp taught me to embrace new challenges and work to overcome difficulties that arise when working with new people. There is beauty in the uniqueness of humans and this camp really showed me that. 

I’ve built up my confidence, my communications skills, my independence and working in teams with those I haven’t met before. My preparation skills and Microsoft skills have also improved on the programme, especially through my placement at Kier in the summer with the CSR, Design, Commercial and Site Management teams.

Dipping my toe in all areas of construction has made me realise there are so many doors open to me. Because of my time at Kier and the Wates Construction Camp I’ve decided to pursue a career in project management. Being able to collaborate with others and bring everyone’s talents together to deliver tangible results really appeals to me. And I feel that the skills I learnt studying drama will help to make me a better project leader in the future.

Being named the 2019 Leidos UK Student of the Year at the Career Ready Awards was such a big moment for me. It has shown me that I can do whatever I want to do and be successful in it with self-belief, determination and encouragement.

It was so intense as my Dad and I sat there waiting for my category to come up – of course, it was the last one! Tracy Greenfield (Vice President of HR at Leidos) added to the tension by saying: “The winner of Leidos Student of the Year Award hasn’t had the easiest of years and has truly experienced great sadness but she has never lost her sense of direction and showcases her resilience time and time again. Please give a huge round of applause for our national winner… Angel Maynard”.

When I went to stand behind the lectern I was amazed at all the smiling proud faces. Giving that heartfelt speech behind that lectern gave me a glimpse into my bright future and the many more speeches I may have to give. Walking off and seeing a standing ovation was so overwhelming I couldn’t stop shaking.

At the awards night, I got talking to Tracey Greenfield about my future which led to Leidos inviting me up to Glasgow to discuss starting an apprenticeship with them. When I visited their office, it just seemed so people orientated that I couldn’t help but imagine how great it would be to work there…so I jumped at the chance to accept their offer! 

I’ll be moving up to Glasgow in September and I honestly can’t wait to get started and take the next steps in my career journey. 

The Career Ready programme has been so giving I am so grateful. The programme and people I have met have influenced me to be more positive and I feel ready for anything now. Life will always throw lemons at you, but you just have to juice them and make some delicious lemonade to get you through the day.

Learn more about how we help young people such as Angel kickstart rewarding futures or get involved today and make a lasting difference.