Celebrating our early talent

April-Laurena Fifield Trainee Digital Engineer
3 min read

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we hear from April-Laurena Fifield, one of our trainee digital engineers, currently supporting our UK projects as part of the Laing O’Rourke core digital modelling team.

April started our professional apprenticeship programme in 2022 and alongside her role is studying construction management at the London Southbank University. She talks about her experience so far and what led her to consider a career in construction.


Name: April-Laurena Fifield
University: London Southbank University
Studying: HNC in Construction Management (Design and Build) and a Degree in Architectural Technology
Job role: Trainee Digital Engineer

What inspired you to become an engineer or technician?

I attended an all-girls grammar school for my secondary education where an awareness of STEM careers was not always promoted, or not when I first started. In some cases, career options around science or maths were encouraged however, there seemed to be a lack of knowledge around computing, technology, and engineering roles.

To my surprise, my school started to offer a GCSE course in the built environment which took my interest at an options evening. I researched the possibilities this route could provide for my career and decided to take the course as it involved being creative as well as maintaining an academic side. I then progressed onto the A-Level course where I started to consider career opportunities in construction in more depth.

I undertook work experience at Laing O’Rourke set up by my construction teacher on two occasions which educated me on the business, what each role did and I got some great career advice. I took so much value from this experience and began considering an apprenticeship at Laing O’Rourke.

My school encouraged further education at university, with apprenticeships often seen as a second option, however my older brother had already completed a three year degree apprenticeship so I got to see how positive his experience was.

Despite applying for full-time university as a back-up option, I also applied for many different apprenticeship programmes, with the help of my teachers and family (who are mostly of an engineering background). While not all my applications were successful, and I had been interviewed more times than I can remember, I ended up securing around two or three offers for an apprenticeship in construction.

I was thrilled to find out one of these offers was for a digital engineering apprenticeship at Laing O’Rourke. While I also considered the other offers, it was clear to me that this was the programme I wanted to pursue, and I started in September 2022.

Can you describe your career in engineering so far?

Digital engineering has been eye-opening to say the least. There is such a wide variety of tools, software, and tasks that I didn’t even know existed a few years ago, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to discover them. Having only worked at Laing O’Rourke for a year and a half I have been exposed to over 10 projects which have all been a learning opportunity in some way, whether it be new software, construction knowledge, or learning soft skills from different members of my team. I am looking forward to working on many more projects and continuing my learning even further.

What has been your biggest success in your career?

Having only started my career a year and a half ago there hasn’t been one major success that stands out (yet!). However, the fact I was offered a place on the apprenticeship I had at the top of my list was a key success for me as it meant that I could do what I was passionate about daily, studying alongside it to help me develop my knowledge, skills and behaviours. I’m not sure what the future holds for my career, but I know that I am lucky to have the chance to study while being trained by amazing industry professionals- helping my studies significantly.

What has been your biggest challenge in your career?

The biggest challenge I have faced so far is understanding how important it is to learn different aspects of construction. During the first year of my HNC I studied law and economics in the built environment which at the time felt pointless. I would always question why I need to know this as a digital engineer, but after talking to others it made me realise that even if something isn’t 100% relevant to your role it is important to have an understanding and appreciation for the other departments you will work with. I now understand that everything I learn, whether directly relevant to my role or not, has value and I never know when I might need it.

Are there any exciting projects you are currently working on?

I am part of the core digital modelling team based at Laing O’Rourke’s head office where we serve multiple projects using a range of software. I have worked on many amazing and exciting projects so far but I am currently working on Tideway, London’s new super sewer. We are in the process of updating thousands of drawings used in the construction to ensure they align with what’s been constructed – we hand these over to the client as “As-Built Drawings”. This involves navigating files, creating renditions, and controlling each set of drawings. I also make the changes to the drawings that are marked up by the engineers on site.

What does the future look like and what are your goals?

It’s hard to tell what the future looks like, but I know that the near future will consist of me completing my HNC and starting to study my degree in Architectural Technology while continuing to work on a range of projects at Laing O’Rourke.

Once I have graduated from my apprenticeship, I hope to progress in my career as a digital engineer and increase my skills and knowledge as much as possible.

I also aim to raise awareness of women in engineering to young people as this is something I wish was more widely promoted when I was at school.

Another topic I would like to raise awareness of is apprenticeships. I believe that for many people, the best way to learn is through experience and seeing/working on what you may be learning at college or university. I would like to encourage more people to consider apprenticeships, what better way to learn than by earning at the same time, gaining a degree without any of the debt. I hope by sharing my story I can inspire others to learn on the job.

Do you have any advice for those looking for their first role in engineering and technology?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone looking into a career in the construction industry is to stay open-minded, especially in the early stages of job-seeking. I know how easy it is to put all your eggs in one basket, but trust me, it’s much more beneficial in the long run to consider all options and not to narrow down your decisions too early.

For example, apprenticeships can be difficult to find, apply and interview for, so treat every process like it’s the one you want, even if it’s at the bottom of your list. This means you will have more offers to choose from at the end of the application process and if anything goes wrong, there are back up routes available to you. It’s also important to do your research and make sure that this is something you want to commit to, as it takes a lot of hard work and dedication but can be very rewarding when you do.

Do you participate in any other career-related activities such as mentoring or volunteering?

When I can I take part in careers events, such as open evenings, careers fairs, school visits and help with our work experience programmes. I enjoy doing this as I can offer my own experience and advice from when I was at school and going through the application process.

I also aim to educate more students on the careers in engineering, especially women, to raise awareness of the industry and encourage more people to consider it.