1. Please introduce yourself including your background, role and company
Hi, I’m Samantha, a Senior Quantity Surveyor at Costain. I graduated from Loughborough University in 2012 with a degree in Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying and started my career with Costain. I have since worked for several main contractors, prominently on highways projects, from public realm works to a brand-new road as well as both motorway and local authority maintenance contracts. I’ve recently found my way back to Costain to become part of their Advisory Capacity within the water sector.
2. How many NEC procured projects have you worked on?
All the projects I have worked on have been NEC. Some have been very bespoke versions of the contract, but I’ve mostly worked under NEC3 Options A and C as a main contractor, and more recently, administering NEC4 on the client’s side.
3. What does a typical day look like to you?
I’m currently working with a client in the water sector giving commercial and contractual advice. I spend most of my time working on one of their long term plan projects, worth £21m. I assess monthly payment applications from the main contractor under Option C as well as assist the Project Manager in assessing compensation event quotations. Alongside this, I work with the Project Managers who manage the base capital maintenance projects, this could be anything from reviewing framework rates to giving advice on how to respond to compensation events and advising what the contractor is entitled to as well as highlighting potential contractual risks to the client.
4. At what point in your career did you (or your organisation) decide to take the NEC accreditation course?
The course has been on my radar for a while, but it was a joint decision between myself and my line manager for me to enrol. I’m now 10 years post grad and I felt that completing the course was the next step in my career.
5. What was one takeaway from the course that you are using every day?
I wouldn’t say it’s something I learned necessarily but it’s given me a newfound sense of confidence I didn’t have before, around my own ability. It was important for me to attend the course and pass the assessment in order to prove to myself that I could do it and that I know what I’m talking about, especially now that I’m in an advisory role. Of course I learned things I didn’t know before, particularly around time and quality, which are parts of the contract I don’t use on a day to day basis, but it also reaffirmed what I did know about the contract. I use that confidence every day now, for sure!
6. How did you prepare for the assessment?
I’m definitely a ‘prepper’ so it was important for me to feel as prepared as possible going into the assessment. Firstly, I booked a meeting room at the office so I knew I wouldn’t be disrupted midway through the questions. This also gave me a quiet space to read over the contract and course notes before I started the assessment.
I annotated my digital copy of the contract with notes I’d made during the course and other information that Barry, our tutor, had given us, such as linked clauses and time barred compensation events. I also marked sections in the course notes, so I could flick quickly between the pages. It looks like organised chaos, but it helped me find things fast! Searching on key words and looking in the contract’s index also saved me quite a bit of time.
I was able to make use of the white board in the meeting room to note down timeframes for acceptances as well as some key clauses I thought I might need. It was a quick prompt I could glance up at rather than wasting time finding the right clause in the contract. I’m a visual learner so this worked well for me.
I also had my contract open on a different screen, this made it much easier than going back and forth between it and the questions.
The practice questions were great to run through prior to starting the real assessment. You think multiple choice will be easy but some of the questions were sneaky and going over the practice questions a few times, got me into the rhythm of how the questions were put across and I was able to gauge how long I was spending on each type of question. Four minutes per question sounds a lot for multiple choice but when there is more than one answer or scenarios you must read through, 4 minutes can go by pretty quickly! Noting down question numbers was good advice from Barry. I didn’t have much time at the end, so I was able to use my final minutes wisely knowing which questions I wanted to double check at the end.
7. What would be your advice to others thinking of taking the accreditation and the assessment?
Go for it! It has really strengthened my knowledge on the parts of the contract I use on a day-to-day basis as well as giving me a well-rounded understanding of parts I don’t necessarily use every day. Plus, it’s a great sense of achievement when you pass!