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A day in the life of a Utility Surveyor

Jon Colley joined our Geomatics team RPS back in 2017, we spoke to him about his role as a Utility Surveyor and his career progression. 

01 September 2021 | 4 min read

UK

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What is it like to work as a surveyor for RPS?

I joined RPS in September 2017 as an eager 19 year old and just four years on from then, I am already an established surveyor, thanks to the training and support I have received from RPS. I felt welcome as soon as I walked through the door. Everyone has time for one another and I could tell straightaway, how close and coordinated the Geomatics Department team really is, and felt I could just fit right in.

The main focus of my role is to locate underground Utility services and I have access to a range of tools that allows me to do so. We use transmitters and receivers to trace a majority of services by sending a current through the service. This is then backed up using a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) technology which sends pulses into the ground and can mirror/reflect ground disturbances that may indicate the presence of a service. We tend to work in partnership with land surveyors on the majority of projects and I’m also able to use GPS within my own work.

What attracted you to a job as a surveyor and what makes it exciting?

Before I started at RPS, I was studying Sports Science at University as I thought that I wanted to be a sports physiotherapist. Midway through the first year, I realised this wasn’t the career for me and decided to drop out when the year completed. At least I have a HNC to show for this!

I never knew about Utility surveying until I saw a trainee role advertised in London. After about 6 weeks in this role, I became more familiar with the survey industry, and came across a job advert from RPS. Initially, I didn’t know anything about RPS but after I discovered through some research just how big a company they were, I applied immediately. I felt that they could offer me more training and support than the company I was previously working for and felt that this was the right place for me to develop my skills and further grow into my career.

I started at RPS as an Assistant Utility Surveyor, and within 6 months, they enrolled me on to the QCF Level 3 utility mapping and location qualification which I completed within a couple of weeks. After 12 months as an Assistant, I was promoted to Utility Surveyor, at the age of 20! This just demonstrates the faith and trust RPS and my managers showed in me. The development and training didn’t stop there. I have been on countless training courses to further develop my skills and experience and have been enrolled on the Level 5 QCF which I have nearly completed.

The challenges I face in my role are extremely varied. Every job creates a unique new problem which I must work to resolve as efficiently and accurately as possible. For example, tracing an 11kv cable through a trench that has LV and data cables above it and no access to the cable to connect to it directly. This is where I would really take my time and use different techniques learned over the past 4 years to try and prevent my signal from leaking across to the wrong cables.

I love travelling and the biggest perk of the job is the opportunity to see some really nice parts of the UK. I have even recently worked on a project at Stonehenge.

Describe a typical day at work

Every survey is different, and every site is unique. This means the services I find and the structure in which they are laid is a new puzzle each time, that I enjoy solving with day-to-day targets to finish the job successfully. Some days, I put all my energy into tracing services such as electric, telecoms cables, water and gas pipes. Other days I spend solely on locating the drainage. We can sound / dye test the pipes to find out where the drainage flows or I can use a sewer sonde which allows me to trace the true route of the sewers.

I also occasionally get to swap roles by assisting the land survey team, which can include anything from watercourse surveys to collecting ground levels in fields.

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