Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)



Alan Beswick

Country: UK

Name: Dr Alan Beswick

Company: JMP Consultants Ltd

Position: Executive Board member

ITS Course: MA Transport Economics 1983-1984

I am a member of the Executive Board of JMP Consultants Ltd, an employee-owned independent transport consultancy with approximately 200 staff in locations throughout the UK. I lead large public sector commissions for clients such as the Highways Agency, Transport Scotland, Local Authorities and PTEs in the fields of transport economics, appraisal and strategy/policy development.

All of the above draw upon the skills and technical background that I began to pick up from my time at ITS and my subsequent move into transport consultancy. Alongside this role I have a series of ‘non-technical’ responsibilities that are associated with running a medium sized business. Specifically within JMP’s Board I am the director responsible for our ‘People &Systems’ functions. As the title suggests this includes what are mostly enjoyable ‘people’ activities such as career development, recruitment and retention of staff, alongside the somewhat less glamorous, but essential, ‘systems’ activities of Health &Safety, IT and Quality and Environmental Management.

My experience at ITS has helped my present job/career in a number of ways. Specifically by doing the MA in Transport Economics I became part of a small group of similarly qualified people. Having already done an economics degree I knew enough about the laws of supply and demand to understand that there was a good chance of being highly employable by virtue of there not being too many other similarly qualified people. "The course also gave me a good grounding in all the basics that I have continued to use throughout my career. It introduced me to a world-wide club of people who have the shared experience of having spent some time at ITS." This has provided me with friends, colleagues and business contacts, many going back more than 25 years, and expanding every year as I have remained in touch with the ITS, regularly attending recruitment days and subsequently recruiting several people from recent courses for JMP.

It would be tempting to say that based on the above I chose the ITS course as part of a grand career plan, but the truth is a little more prosaic. I had just finished doing a joint honours degree in Economics and Geography at Leeds University and my personal tutor for the course was Prof Peter Mackie at ITS. When it emerged that I had ended up with a reasonable first degree and, (like many of the class of 1983), not overly burdened with job opportunities to choose from, Peter advised me of a Rees Jeffery’s bursary available for the MA in Transport Economics. I applied and the rest is history as they say.

As to why I chose Leeds University in the first place I’m afraid that was not a very academically or professionally structured decision. I wanted to be at a good university, that was truly integrated and connected to its city and not a remote isolated campus, far enough from home (Liverpool) to be a real change in lifestyle, but close enough to get back home when I ran out of money and/or clean clothes. I’m sure the choice of course was a factor as well….

My advice to students interested in this course is to think hard about what motivates you. Over the years I have found that people who work in transport planning tend to be really committed to the idea that you can do something worthwhile that can change the cities, towns and communities that you live in It is obviously not a true vocation like medicine or nursing or teaching but generally people go into it for the love of the job. Don’t think about it if you want to get rich. If that still sounds like you then ask yourself where will I get the best training and a qualification that is internationally recognized and respected. Then ask yourself the questions about what sort of place do I want to study in.

Perhaps the biggest thing to think about is whether you want to do the course as a springboard for getting into the transport planning and engineering world or whether you want to work first then take the time out to get a qualification that puts a theoretical structure around the work you have been doing. Obviously life today is harder with uncertainties about the affordability of further education, the ability of businesses to fund additional learning and the number of jobs that there will be in transport planning, but in the medium term "I don’t believe anyone doubts that there will be a worldwide demand for transport planners, engineers and economists."