Lee Van Cliff, engineer’s assistant
Lee started his apprenticeship with VGC Labour Solutions in 2013. He is now a full-time employee working as an engineer’s assistant on the Crossrail Whitechapel contract.
Lee did his apprenticeship for VGC on the Whitechapel Crossrail project (for Balfour Beatty Morgan Vinci JV).
“Doing an apprenticeship has been a good alternative to going to university and getting into debt”, he said. “If you’re just studying it can be hard to get by, but in an apprenticeship you’re earning money from the start and there are good opportunities at the end of it.”
Lee attended college at the Stratford Building Crafts College one day a month to enable him to gain the NVQ Level 2 in Underpinning Railway Engineering Knowledge. In November 2014 he was awarded the Morgan Sindall prize for the best-performing second year student for construction operations by the Building Crafts College.
He started his apprenticeship as a general labourer learning various skills including concreting, health and safety, carpentry and bricklaying. “I enjoyed doing it all – they were all challenging and fun in their own ways.” He chose his current role, as chain person assisting a surveying engineer, because it was the one he liked most.
“We monitor the whole site to ensure it stays safe, and that the ground isn’t moving. We take readings to monitor for minute changes in the ground level using an inclinometer – a probe which we use to check the levels at half meter intervals right down to 50m or 75m underground. We have numerous levelling points near buildings to ensure that they aren’t put at risk by our activities.
“I work with a really nice surveying team – they teach me things and help me to learn. Everyone in construction cares and helps you out – everyone wants to see you progress, which is really nice.”
He praises the support from VGC. “I feel that VGC has been there for me more than they need to. If I’ve needed support in work or at college they’ve been there and helped me out. [Supervisors] Chris O’Sullivan and Nick Wells regularly check I’m OK, and tell me to call if I need anyone. They care about me more than I have felt previous employers have done.”
While he really enjoys his current role – and his commute (“It takes me 15 minutes to walk to work”) – Lee’s options for his future career are open. His work experience and qualifications mean he can progress wherever he wants to go. “I’m open to whatever develops: I just want to learn more and be better at it.”