Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Profile

 

Country: UK

Name: Leighton Cardwell

Company: WSP

Position: Technical Director

ITS Course: MSc Transport Planning 2006

I am a Technical Director at WSP, based in Leeds. My geographical remit covers Yorkshire, the NW, NE and East Midlands, working with a range of Local Authority, National Government, Sub-Regional Bodies and Private Sector Investors to provide the evidence for planning and investment in transport schemes.  Alongside business growth and project delivery, I also have responsibility for the technical development and co-ordination of our transport modelling, economics & business case work across the Region, and working with others in different parts of the country (and world) to share best practice and latest updates around.

ITS helped me by providing a ‘umbrella’ of transport knowledge across a large variety of topics and transport areas, as well as understand the linkages. Whatever stage in your career you are at, your future is always built upon strong foundations. The ability to mix strategy, policy, modelling, mathematics, GIS and practice is a key part of my day-to-day delivery role for clients; and one founded from early days from the set-up of the ITS courses. This has particularly helped in terms of delivering transport business cases and transport infrastructure studies within multi-disciplinary and cross-sector teams- particularly in the context of enabling and unlocking economic growth.

I became interested in transport planning through the diverse mix of skills I could see that ITS blended, and offered in terms of a career path. I thus started looking towards the end of my second year, and shortlisted two options. I chose ITS based on contact I made with current students, future employer recommendations, and initial discussion with some of the tutors through the application process. I was also fortunate to apply for and receive a Rees-Jeffreys Bursary through my application at ITS.

My advice to students interested in this course and a career in transport is that the primary thing most employers look for out of the ITS course is enthusiasm and evidence of delivery/ structured thought in the work they have been undertaking. As much as you might think otherwise, this tends to have greater weight than pure technical ability; the latter being both easier to teach in terms of the development programmes consultancies have, and with a willingness to learn further being a key prerequisite for achieving this. Transport Planning does however require a mix of skill-sets and backgrounds to deliver successfully on projects, so if you wish to remain more specialist, think about how the skill-sets you offer fit into the delivery of infrastructure, and how you can/ will collaborate with others to achieve successful outcomes. A lot of the practical skills at ITS are very much focused on this deliberately.

I attended the ITS Employer Visits, and I would recommend them. However bear in mind not all consultancies are there. I sought out my first company separate to this, and it acted as a good comparison in terms of offer and future career paths. The ITS employer visits helped confirm a few things for me; but bear in mind you’ll want to try and be prepared before the employers actually come and visit as much as possible!

I have a passion and have a strong sense of pride in securing transport investment for clients; whether from national, sub-regional, devolved or private sector sources. This is never easy, and has multiple layers of challenge to usually overcome; not least in terms of getting all levels of politics, including the public, lined up and generally supportive of such investments. Delivering the evidence to secure investment in some innovative projects has probably been the highlight so far- especially in terms of Tram-Train delivery in the UK; alongside a number of really locally important schemes for residents of deprived parts of the North. It’s at this level you see that your work has a real impact on the life chances, travel horizons and quality of life opportunities for the communities you serve. 

I’ve also been fortunate in my 30’s to be an expert witness at several inquiries; again this really brings home to you the importance of the evidence and work you undertake in terms of its practical meaning for people’s lives. Transport modelling and business case development is never just a theoretical exercise!!

My advice to ITS international students who are seeking work in the transport sector is to make sure you always start from the relevant local policy background, and be careful in applying assumptions learned elsewhere into new areas of contexts- without thinking first. Without this you may struggle to gain the trust of those around you, and those you’re working with. This applies as much to those doing transport planning or modelling in London as the North of England- as the principles of difference are equally valid- as well as internationally. I’ve reviewed several models in the Middle East where graduates have still started to code junctions on the basis of UK coding learning (not least being the wrong side of the road), so applied thought here is certainly key!