National Apprenticeship Week is an appropriate time to post the impressive story of a bright young man who, at the tender age of sixteen, has found himself in the cut and thrust of industry, after choosing an apprenticeship with our friends Mott MacDonald.

We encourage you to read Brad’s extraordinary story, and be inspired by the next generation of design, engineering and construction professionals.

Brad’s Story

In year 9, when it was time to choose my options, I wasn’t sure what to choose. I was studying at St George’s RC High School which was about to be merged with St Ambrose Barlow, and as such, I didn’t know much about Design Engineer Construct!® However, I’ve always been interested in engineering and architecture; when I was younger, I played with Lego and watched Grand Designs with my Mum and Dad. So I looked further into DEC and what was involved.

I looked on the internet and found some information explaining what DEC was, and I also took a leaflet from the open evening at St Ambrose. After reading up on DEC and speaking to my parents, my Dad thought it sounded like a good idea and encouraged me to choose the subject, whereas my mum was more cautious.

My parents and teachers wanted me to take an academic route for my options. DEC was a vocational subject, and that was the reason that my mum was cautious. She thought that vocational subjects like BTECs were not seen as academic as GCSEs. In her eyes, DEC was a ‘cop-out’ subject. My Dad and I managed to convince her that it would be the correct decision.

In year 10, I started at St Ambrose – the school was new to me, and so was the DEC course. DEC was a double lesson at the end of the day on Wednesdays and Fridays. A lot of my friends had chosen to do DEC too, and those that hadn’t wished they had by the end of the course!

In the early stages, I didn’t know much about construction and engineering, and my knowledge was very similar to most people of my age – an architect designs something and then it is built on site. I knew of engineers, but I didn’t know exactly what they did. So I was pleased that, in the early part of the programme, I learned about all of the different roles in construction and therefore had a greater understanding of the construction industry and the career opportunities within it.

I was able to learn how to use an industry-standard design tool, Autodesk Revit, as part of the course, and by the end of year 10, I’d  completed the coursework and just had to take the exam. I had a complete portfolio and had submitted a Revit model, and everything had been marked and passed.

Brad Lees DEC! Revit

Towards the end of year 10, our teacher, Mr McDonagh, announced that four students had been asked to present at the Annual Yorkshire and Humber Constructional Excellence Awards in Sheffield. He asked everybody in the class to volunteer, outlining the potential opportunities that could arise from the event. I was interviewed, and, along with three of my Year 10 classmates on the last day of term, we presented our work from that past year and spoke of our aspirations for the future.

We also appealed to the audience for work experience in the Summer, and I was lucky enough to be offered a week with Mott MacDonald at the Altrincham office with Chartered Engineer Jason Hyde. This great opportunity, which was hugely enjoyable and informative, further reinforced my own desire to become an engineer.

The following school year, we concentrated on our revision for our forthcoming exam, and entered the Class Of Your Own ‘Hotel Underground’ competition. In this competition, our knowledge of the different roles in design, engineering and construction came into action. My team of four – the “00Heaven” team –  had to share a range of responsibilities and I was assigned the Project Manager role.


I’m proud of the way I led my team, and our hard work paid off as we were selected as finalists by some very experienced judges. Our Head Teacher gave us permission to miss two days of school, and we travelled to London. We met people from Radisson who designed and engineered hotels, and realised that much of the work we had done as students was very similar to theirs!
We spent the evening in a four star Radisson hotel, saw behind the scenes, and then presented our design the following day at the international ‘Sleep’ hotel design event. Our audience included design professionals from all around the world, and our judges were top officials from Radisson, Autodesk, Transport for London and Soluis. We were up against a team from London whose design was also really good – and we won. Aside from my exam results, this was my greatest achievement in my school life.

Following my work experience at Mott MacDonald, I had a better idea of the career I wanted to pursue, but was still uncertain. After Hotel Underground, I spoke to a lot of people from the industry,  and especially to my parents. I knew I wanted to work with buildings and structures, but was very interested in the maths and physics behind them, rather than the architecture itself. I was certain that I wanted a career in civil engineering, but didn’t know which career path to take.

I had already applied to Manchester’s Loreto Sixth Form College with a view to studying A levels and going to university, but I was still not sure if that was the route I wanted to take. I had been given leaflets from Mott MacDonald about their apprenticeship scheme, so I did some further research about this pathway into a career. Jason Hyde, whom I worked with on my work experience, spoke to my parents about this possibility and I decided to apply.

I discussed the apprenticeship route with my parents and my teacher, Mr McDonagh, and was reassured by Jason that the opportunity was still on offer. I wanted to gain first hand experience and knowledge and get into the industry quickly, with no university debt and a salary. My mind was made up. I wanted to go ahead with the apprenticeship.

After successfully going through the testing and interview stage, I was officially offered an apprenticeship at Mott MacDonald from August 2015. My family and friends were all very proud that I had gained employment with a company as respected as Mott MacDonald. My parents are so happy for me, and see the amazing opportunities that have opened up due to this apprenticeship and studying DEC (and they’re also very pleased to receive the money I have to give them every month!)

I am enjoying my time with Mott MacDonald, although parts of life are a lot different now! It took a while to get used to leaving work without being told to as there is no bell, going to the toilet without asking for permission (!) and having a long commute every morning and evening. Having a salary is very different to when I was at school; I no longer have to try to save up any change from the bus to have a little money in my pocket, and I’m now able to save up for a car so I can start driving  as soon as I pass my test.

However, a lot of things have not changed. I have a great social life, I still see my friends and my girlfriend almost every weekend and sometimes after work. I am also still able to keep as active as when I was in school, still attending the gym and playing sports, especially football.

Since starting at Mott MacDonald and working from 8.30 to 5pm, four days a week (I also attend college one day a week where I’m studying for a level 3 qualification), I feel that I have become more mature. I have learnt a lot in my first six months of work and advanced my Autodesk Revit and other software knowledge and skills. I’ve seen the importance of time management and teamwork, and learned more about the industry as a whole.

A few thoughts from those around me…

“I wasn’t thrilled about this new subject; to me, it was a ‘nothing’ subject. I thought that Brad was wasting his time by choosing Design Engineer Construct!® My first thought was that it was an easy subject used by the school to improve exam results for the Ofsted reports. I was disappointed with Brad for going through with choosing the subject, and with his dad for encouraging him to do so.

How wrong I was.

Design Engineer Construct!® has opened up so many opportunities for Brad, and now I’m so thrilled he went through with it! Luckily, he listened to his dad instead of me! I am so proud of Brad and grateful for where he has ended up because of Design Engineer Construct!®”

Mrs Lees (Mum)


“I encouraged Brad to choose Design Engineer Construct!® because I instantly liked the sound of it. We spoke to Brad’s teacher, Mr McDonagh from St Ambrose, when he came into St George’s to help with option choices. I didn’t know that so many opportunities would come with it, but I had a good feeling. Brad and I managed to convince his mum that it was the right choice and that he would not regret the decision later on.

Brad would tell me about his DEC lessons when I picked him up from school, I was impressed with the industry methods and software being used and how much enthusiasm the students and teachers put into it. Then came all of the presentations and I saw how much industry professionals had got involved. I saw the career opportunities that might emerge, and indeed they have.

I am so happy that Brad has followed a career path into something that he thoroughly enjoys and I’m so proud of how far he has come since he took up Design Engineer Construct!®”

Mr Lees (Dad)


“DEC, quite simply, has changed our approach to education. We have witnessed first hand the power of genuine and sustained industry/education collaboration through the delivery of a relevant curriculum centred on the 21st century Built Environment.

We believe this should be replicated across secondary education through other subjects and industries. This curriculum has raised the aspirations of pupils like Bradley and allowed them to believe they can progress into exciting careers in Architecture, Engineering and Construction.

Our pupils regularly work with diverse sectors of the industry, through planned and integrated collaboration, which offers pupils the experience and expertise of passionate professionals. They have thrived on the opportunities to interact with visitors and developed valuable personal skills while learning about the various pathways into the industry.
DEC and the Adopt A School scheme really does work, and Bradley is living proof. He’s a role model to all our students following in his footsteps – and we have a lot of them!”

Dan McDonagh
Subject Leader for Engineering, St Ambrose Barlow RC High School


“Bradley came to work with me for a week’s work experience during a summer term. I already knew about the course having volunteered for Alison Watson at Class Of Your Own, so I knew that anyone she recommended would be very capable.

Brad didn’t disappoint! He took to the work I planned for him without hesitation and excelled at each of the tasks he was set. I had the pleasure of meeting his parents at the schools celebration event (after Brad’s team won the Hotel Underground competition) and could tell instantly that they were immensely proud of what Brad had accomplished.

Following a brief email exchange about Mott MacDonald’s apprenticeship scheme and what it offered, I am proud to say that he has joined us here in the Altrincham Bridge team.
His work to date has been excellent and is on par with some of junior technicians. I’m sure he will go far if he keeps up his standard of work – an excellent addition to the Mott MacDonald team!”

Jason Hyde
Chartered Civil Engineer, Mott MacDonald

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