Ben Hicklin

I studied AS Level in Maths and A Levels in Chemistry, Geology and Geography at Collyer’s from 2011-2013. Collyer’s has played a major role in setting me up for my career progression. It was one of the few colleges that offered the range of subject materials that I was interested in when I left secondary school. When I was in my second year of study at Collyer’s, I was in an unfortunate accident that took me out of education for 3 months with a head injury. When I returned, the Collyer’s staff worked with me and the doctors to integrate me back into courses on campus and helped me work around temporary limited mobility issues. I decided to try and graduate with my classmates instead of deferring, due to missing the course material for so long, and the staff were all incredibly supportive. I had various staff members help me by sacrificing their lunch breaks and after college time to tutor me on the subject material I had missed. It was thanks to the college staff that I was able to graduate with my classmates, achieving AAB in my A Levels.

I then studied for my BSC in Environmental Geosciences at Durham and an MSC in Environmental Consultancy at Newcastle. I have been working at Dunton Environmental for close to 4 years now. In this role I am involved with the planning and remediation of sites with contaminated ground. This involves understanding the chemical and physical properties of the soil, creating a plan that treats or remediates the problems found, before then getting the team together on the ground and putting those plans into action.

I feel like I make a big difference where I am. Our company motto is ‘Restoring our Earth’, and I feel like with every site and job that I complete I am helping move towards that goal. The sites we clean up then go on to be used by developers for all sorts of uses like schools, housing, or even river diversions. I hope that in 60 years I will be able to re-visit the locations I have worked and know that because of the work I have done that people are living and raising families there safely.

In terms of my typical day it varies completely from day to day which is an element I love about this job! Some days it is desk based, going through chemical and geo-technical data sheets, liaising with councils and the EA over plans. Other days it is completely boots on the ground based, taking survey information on site, organising all the machinery, and acting as a site manager.

What do I love about my job? How varied the daily workday is, and the feeling like at the end of a project you have made a real difference. Also, part of the job means going were the work is, so you get to travel around a lot and see different places and cities. The changing problems and environments means the job rarely gets repetitive or dull.

For someone looking to get into a similar role you need good problem solving and communication skills. It does not matter how clever your plan is, if you cannot explain it simply to someone who has not got the same educational background as you then you may as well have not planned anything at all! There are many ways into this type of role. For me it was university, however, I have colleagues at the same level who have worked their way up after college through experience and time in the field. More than anything the important step is to apply yourself to whatever route you choose. All managers know that skills can be taught, it is your attitude that will determine 9/10 whether you get a role or not. Put your name out there, approach companies directly and do not be afraid to call people on the phone. Direct engagement is definitely your best chance of getting noticed.


What next Ben? After a few more years at my level, I hope to move towards chartership and earning the Technically Competent Manager title. Once I have this recognition behind my belt, I will be able to move into even larger projects and opportunities.