From Army Engineer to Project Manager

Peter Barratt spent 25 years with the Corps of Royal Engineers as a Clerk of Works (Mechanical), rising to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1. He joined Costain in Nov 2012 and is currently working on the Hinkley Point C nuclear new build project in Somerset – as a project manager (site mobilisation, infrastructure and security).

Life in the Royal Engineers was always varied. I moved to different units every 18 months. Assignments included Canada, Brunei, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Falkland Islands, Bosnia and Germany, as well as the UK.

The roles were as diverse as the locations. During my time in the Army I covered everything from facilities maintenance to setting up contracts and running design and build projects. I had to quickly get to grips with different cultures and environments, putting together construction programmes in some extreme conditions.

For example, in Canada I was looking after the maintenance of an estate the size of Wales. I was subsequently posted to Germany to deal with contracts. In my final posting in Brunei I was in charge of all the works contracts for refurbishment projects, as well as the operation and maintenance of the existing garrison accommodation.

Wherever I was in the world I had to ensure that standards met with UK regulations, which could be challenging; I was often liaising with local civilian subcontractors, working to tight budgets and timescales with limited resources.

I left the Army in 2012. Within days of arriving in the UK, I was offered a job with Costain. The nuclear director had had good experiences working with military personnel. He was specifically looking for an engineer with a military background who could quickly get to grips with documentation and hit the ground running managing a new team.

After a stint at Sellafield and the Oil and Pipeline Agency, both with Costain, I’m now working on the nuclear new build site at Hinkley Point C. I’m setting up four sites for Costain across the South West, and I’m also leading security on the project.

Day to day I could be doing anything from hiring in temporary accommodation, overseeing sub-contractor risk assessments and method statements or setting up site services contracts. I’m also assisting the setting up of a concrete batching plant and tunnel lining manufacturing facility for 39,000 segments.

There are many similarities between construction and the Army. We’re often working to tight deadlines, and particularly in the nuclear sector have to adapt to strict rules and guidelines, especially on safety and quality issues.

I would definitely recommend construction as a career to other service leavers. My feet haven’t touched the ground since leaving the Army. I love the challenges of the work and know that I’m valued for my experience, discipline and ability to manage teams.”

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