We Talk To Two Of Our Heathcote DEC! Alumni!


Two of our Heathcote DEC! alumni have been in touch with us to keep us up-to-date with what they’ve been up to since leaving school, and how completing Heathcote’s DEC! course has been invaluable to them. Ellis Benson, who left us last year, is employed as an apprentice by construction company Arup and gives her experience in an interview with Head of DT Mr Dolan. Ellis achieved a superb A* grade at GCSE and an 'A' grade at A-level. We also hear from Tom O’Dwyer, who left Heathcote in 2019 and is now employed as an apprentice civil engineer with Mott MacDonald...


Ellis Benson

What got you interested in DEC?

Having heard about the subject from a friend who had recently taken it I become interested in it and decided that I wanted to take it. it was something different to the standard subjects which also attracted me, and having a dad that works in the industry I was always intrigued by what he does and wanted to give it a go for myself!

What are your special/stand out memories?

Special/stand out memories from DEC were all of the opportunities we had to visit new places, and go on active sites to see how everything was done in real life rather than just being stuck in a classroom behind a computer screen which made the learning more interesting and interactive was something that I really enjoyed!

What is your advice to other students?

Go for it, it was such a great lesson and opportunity to have as not many schools offer the subject, and it's really something that employers look for and are impressed by that you have had the experience and the knowledge of using the software we use in the industry, as well as the knowledge you gain of different topics and disciplines.

IMG 0527What difference has DEC made to you personally?

Before taking DEC I was unsure about what career path I wanted to take, but by taking DEC I gained a love for the subject and knew that it was what I wanted to do, it didn't matter the discipline or the role I just wanted to be in the industry. In addition to this taking DEC really helped my confidence, as we had to do presentations every so often which was something I dreaded, but even though they still aren't my favourite thing to do, I at least have the confidence to do them now. As well as the presentations, we also had the opportunity to meet various new people which also helped boost my confidence!

What difference has DEC made to your education and career opportunities?

DEC has helped me so much already in my career as employers have been impressed with the fact that I have used the software we use day to day in the industry, which not many people can say that they have done prior to working. It also broadened my career options as before taking the subject, I was unaware of how many roles and disciplines there were in the industry. It also gave me a chance to learn from the point of view from various roles as we covered subjects from Health and Safety to performing the tasks of an architect.

How would you describe your overall DEC experience?

Amazing - I enjoyed every lesson and having a teacher that was so helpful and passionate about the subject really reflected on the lessons and me as a student!


Tom O'Dwyer

What got you interested in DEC?

The DEC! GCSE course had been running in my school for a few years, as part of the DT rotation. I was lucky enough to do a 10-week DEC! taster while in year eight (aged twelve), where I first learnt about the built environment and the job roles within it. I found these taster sessions really interesting, it was exciting to learn about the industry and to create models, which was very different from any other subject at school.

What are your special, stand-out DEC memories?

When it comes to DEC! and special stand out moments I have so many, such as: site visits I went on, the people I met and meeting the industry professionals who visited our school. But the two moments that standout the most are having the opportunity as a 15-year-old to go on a week’s work experience with the BMB Team at Thames Tideway project, working on the super sewer. This was such a great experience and a real eye opener to what happens on site an operational site. All of the theory that I had been learning during my year 10 GCSE lessons came to life, this practical experience certainly helped to enhance the classroom theory and help me to get an A*. As part of this work experience I got to use industry standard software and surveying equipment. It was while on work experience that I was encouraged by Tom Lane (from the Tideway Skills and Employment team) to enter the DEC!/MOBIE modular student accommodation design competition, which I then went on to win. This led to my second stand out moment going to Teesside University and presenting to industry professionals including Architect, TV presenter and competition judge George Clarke.

TORWhat is your advice to other students considering DEC?

DEC! is unlike any other subject you will ever do, it has taught me so much about the built environment and the industry as a whole. Even now two years into my apprenticeship, I still find myself using the terminology and skills I learnt in my DEC lessons. It has opened up so many doors for me giving me so much experience, I know there are not too many eighteen-year olds working in a job that they love as a direct result of what they learnt during their GCSE’s.

Taking the DEC! course is the reason why I am in the job I love today. I have just completed my two-year level 3 Civil Engineering apprenticeship and I am now moving on to the degree apprenticeship. You simply don’t get this type of exposure, or access to any industry from any other subject. Most people I speak to at work, have gone into this industry because they know someone, a parent or relative who works within the built environment. Both of my parents worked in banking, so a career in the built environment probably would never have crossed my mind, if it hadn’t of been for this course. There are thousands of different job roles linked to this industry, with many crying out for young talent and it’s not just architecture and brick laying as most people assume!

What difference has DEC made to you personally?

DEC! has opened up so many doors for me, when at: work experience, speak to working professionals, on site or even at my job interview, most industry professionals are so impressed to hear that you’ve been using industry standard software at school since the age of twelve.

The teacher lead conversations that we had during our lessons about site constraints, planning regulations and government acts, are all the bases for what I do in my job role today. I remember feeling so unconfident making my first presentation in the classroom in front of my teachers and classmates, now presentations are a regular theme of my role and nothing to fear. I am so glad I got to practice this skill in the classroom. DEC! is not just about completing a GCSE course it’s the soft skills, the knowledge and the confidence it gives you, these are all employment traits that industries need, and this course offers.

How would you describe your overall DEC experience in one sentence?

I can honestly say that I loved every single lesson and that it has changed the course of my life.