The benefits of combining work with study

Gemma Rees graduated with a Project Management degree from USW and now works as an Assistant Project Manager at Mott MacDonald, earning a salary of £35k-£40k.

Recently, Gemma was appointed as chair of the CIOB’s Novus, a group of young professionals who prepare young people to be the next generation of construction industry leaders.

"The most enjoyable part of my job is being part of an initial concept design to construction and watching it develop.

Working for a global consultancy such as Mott MacDonald has allowed me to work and gain experience on a variety of projects, from heritage, educational and blue light projects.

The construction industry is often overlooked by young women and carries a stigma I’ve found to be untrue. I have been in the industry for three years and have achieved more in that three years than I ever did in my previous career. There are all sorts of exciting projects to get involved in and be passionate about. I really do believe that the sky is the limit.

Before starting the project management course, I was an estate agent and wanted to become a building surveyor. Although it was a Project Management and Surveying degree, there were opportunities to go down a number of career paths upon completion. From my year, everyone is now employed in the industry, in lots of different sectors and organisations.

During my first year, a part time position became available at Mott MacDonald. I applied and was successful, and Mott MacDonald also paid my University fees.

Working whilst studying was a challenge. One of my first projects for Mott MacDonald was based in Scotland. This meant flying and staying overnight twice a month, as well as other project work, attending University, assignments, and exams.

It was tiring and hard to fit everything into the day. However, what I was studying at University was helping me understand what I was being asked to do in work and vice versa. Although hard, I would recommend trying to get work experience whilst studying.

The most enjoyable parts of the course were the more practical aspects, such as taking condition surveys on a property. Group projects and working together to problem solve was another favourite. We were often asked to carry out PowerPoint Presentations and although I didn’t overly enjoy it at the time, it has helped build my confidence when talking to large groups in the working environment.

As a mature student, I had to make many sacrifices to go to University and achieve my project management degree. Graduating from USW was a huge achievement. The next step for me is to become chartered, both RICS and CIOB."