James Dutchman is spending some time in South Africa while in pursuit of his BEng (Hons) in Engineering Geology. He chatted to Rock Talk about his reasons for coming here and his experiences thus far.
James Dutchman, a Consultant Intern (Engineering Geology) at SRK Consulting, hails from Hastings on the South coast of England, in the county of East Sussex.
"As part of my four-year university sandwich degree course (Engineering Geology and Geotechnics) at the University of Portsmouth, we are encouraged to take up an industrial placement with a company in the field of Engineering Geology as part of our third-year studies," he told Rock Talk.
"Having already worked in the UK for four years with a ground investigation contractor, I felt that I needed to broaden my experience, so I took a conscious decision to look for placement opportunities outside of the UK. I applied to a number of consultancy companies both in Australia and South Africa."
James has no regrets about his decision to take up a placement at SRK Consulting. "Apart from the great weather compared with the UK, I have enjoyed almost every aspect of being in South Africa, from the friendly people to the different cultures," he said.
However, he has met some challenges while working in South Africa, the biggest of which is understanding the differences in standards and guidelines between here and the UK and Europe. "Although the principles are the same, subtle differences still catch me out," James admitted.
And he does repeat some of the complaints South Africans often air: "I have never felt in danger or experienced any dangerous situations in the course of my work. However getting to some site locations can be hair raising, with all the potholes, animals and bad drivers on the road. These are rarely experienced in the UK - apart from the bad drivers."
James said his exposure to and experience of the mining industry only started on arrival in South Africa eight months ago. "Unfortunately, there is no longer a mining industry in the UK after the closure of the coal mines in the 80s, and little focus is placed on this sector," he lamented.
He believes rock engineering is currently a good field to get into, as there is a lack of well trained rock engineers and plenty of work available. "I feel it is an area that will grow. The current courses provided by South African universities look great and I would certainly consider doing a Masters in South Africa and would encourage others to do so," he enthused.
"I would love to come back to South Africa to continue my career and intend to do so as soon as I have completed my degree course. I feel there are a lot of opportunities in South Africa and other African countries, not just in the mining sector but in the field of Engineering Geology itself."
That said, he believes experience plays a vital role in the field of Engineering Geology and would love to gain some in a wide range of countries, including Australia and Canada.
James is a member of a large family, consisting of one brother, Tom, a soldier in the UK forces; two stepbrothers, Lawrence and Leslie, both of whom work in Canada; one stepsister, Leanne, a nurse in the UK; and a half-sister, Phillippa, in college in Canada.
His mother, Helen, is clinical service manager for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust in the UK. His father, David, is a doctor and emigrated to Canada with his stepmother, Lynne.
James likes to spend his free time in the gym or exploring new places and meeting new people. He said Africa provides an ample supply of two of his main interests: geology and wildlife.