Rising Stars

 About Rising Stars

The Institute of Water is dedicated to supporting the careers of people working in the UK water utility sector and the Rising Stars programme is a key feature of our ongoing work to nurture rising talent in the water sector.

This tailor-made programme was originally developed in partnership with the industry magazine company, Utility Week, to celebrate and reward Institute of Water members who have demonstrated both the potential and an appetite to progress in the water industry. The programme is now stand-alone and sits solely within the Institute of Water.

Through an application process each year, we choose eight Institute of Water members who have shown both the potential and an appetite to progress within the water industry.

Rising Stars brings together a collection of unique opportunities, designed to develop the skills and professional excellence of new industry talent and particularly focuses on providing professional development in the skills areas that are not traditionally tackled or made available to individuals.

“This programme has enabled me to explore parts of the industry I’d otherwise never get the chance to and those experiences are invaluable for my CPD.”
Fionn Boyle, Optimisation Project Engineer, Anglian Water, 2018 Rising Star

See what other Rising Stars have said about the programme here.


Meet our Rising Stars of 2019

Jonathon Banks

Technical Support Advisor, Northumbrian Water

Jonathon began his career as a plumbing and heating engineer in Yorkshire. He completed a City & Guilds apprenticeship in mechanical engineering before gaining experience running his own plumbing company. He worked in France, New Zealand, Australia and the US before moving to Newcastle and joining Northumbrian Water (NW) in 2014. Since then he has completed a Diploma in Water Engineering which, combined with a diverse practical background, has helped him work his way through different roles in wastewater, sewer flooding and pollutions.   Jonathon has an enthusiasm and drive for professional development.  He played an important role expanding NW’s Water Ranger scheme, working with members of the public and local authorities. His report writing on pollution incidents is setting a new benchmark and has contributed to the department’s success in pollution reduction, for which NW are now recognised as industry leading.

Jonathon’s message to the water industry:

I have developed a keen interest for environmental sustainability. My enthusiasm in this area comes through witnessing first-hand the impact operational failures can have on the environment if they are not suitably managed. The water industry faces a huge challenge on managing an ever-aging asset base, whilst the issues posed by climate change and the expected growth in population are compounding these challenges. I believe that these future challenges are only beginning to come apparent and that we, in our industry, are hopefully best-placed to support research and innovation to put water resource and waste management on the right track. It is vital that the industry works collaboratively together to tackle this. We all have a responsibility to take care of our environment. The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo. Time to raise our game!

Georgia Brown

Waste Process Commissioning Technician, Severn Trent Water

Georgia joined the water industry at eighteen upon completion of her A-Levels. Joining the operational apprenticeship scheme at Severn Trent in 2016, she trained to operate a major surface water treatment works in the Severn Trent region, also training as a water treatment process advisor. Alongside industry training, Georgia studied at EEF College for an NVQ level 2 in Maintenance and an NVQ level 3 in Water and Wastewater Treatment, obtaining a distinction for her apprenticeship. She has been recognised at the RateMyApprenticeship Awards 2018, winning her category, Outstanding Advanced Apprentice.

Georgia now works as a process commissioning technician, commissioning and optimising new treatment processes at wastewater treatment works in order to meet tighter final effluent permits. Georgia has had the opportunity to work with new innovations and treatment processes to Severn Trent, as well as having many opportunities to represent the company and apprenticeships at competitions and events.

Georgia’s message to the water industry:

Networking is key for development within the water industry, working with other companies and universities will bring in new ideas, innovations and treatment processes to optimise how we operate using the best technology possible. I will have many opportunities to do this during the Rising Stars program and hope both Severn Trent and the other water companies will benefit. I hope to continue my learning and development within the industry and will also be going on to study an MSc in Water and Wastewater Engineering at Cranfield University in October 2019.

I think it is important that we continue to take on apprentices and graduates to provide tailor made training to the sector and to allow for collaborative working both within the company and across the different companies. In my time as a Rising Star I will continue to represent apprenticeships and will hopefully inspire others to follow my path.”

Thomas Kelly

Operations Manager, Northern Ireland Water Alpha

Thomas is Operations Manager for Northern Ireland Water Alpha. Having undertaken a number of technical, water quality and leadership roles, Thomas now manages a team of engineers operating a group of water treatment works across Northern Ireland. He is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Scientist through the Institute of Water, and a Chartered Manager through the Chartered Management Institute. Thomas holds an MBA from the Ulster University, having previously qualified with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Materials Engineering from the University of Manchester. Thomas sits on the Institute of Water Science Panel, and is part of the Institute’s Northern Ireland Area Committee. A member of the Institute of Water since 2010, Thomas has previously been awarded the USIT Business Skills Award, the Northern Ireland Area Innovation Award and the national CPD Award in 2016. He is looking forward to learning from the experience of senior industry professionals through the 2019 Rising Star programme.

Thomas’ message to the water industry:

Change has been an ever-present in my career to date. In an environment of change, I have learned how important it is to be resilient, in every sense of the word. My message to colleagues in the Water Industry is to grasp opportunities to develop, much like the ones offered by the Institute of Water, so that when change occurs we are all better positioned to adapt. I would encourage businesses within the Industry to be responsive to the rapidly developing technology that could evolve the way we provide services to customers, and this includes welcoming new people with new skills to the water workforce. We may not know exactly what the future of our industry will look like, but we can collectively work towards developing ourselves, our colleagues and our businesses so that we are best prepared to respond.

Brandon Morris

Water Systems Operations Apprentice, Wessex Water

Brandon began his career within the water industry in September 2017, as a Water Operations Apprentice. Going on to complete a full rotation of the industry over a year’s period, he experienced different roles within the company, furthering his long-term career and helping him to understand how different aspects of the industry work together to provide the work they do. In result of this, he decided to specialise in Leakage; the area that fascinated him the most.

Brandon has also started his CPD, creating a log of his career so far, acting as a very motivated and dedicated employee. Furthermore, Brandon is a member of the South West Committee for the Institute of Water, allowing him to give presentations and speeches regarding the experience gained as a result of the Institute. Additionally, Brandon gives talks about his apprenticeship on Open Days and other events. In the future, Brandon’s ambition is to become a Leakage Inspector, enabling him to understand Leakage in more depth, he hopes to make his way up to hierarchy within the water industry. In conclusion, Brandon has taken every opportunity to enhance his career and will continue to do so throughout the Rising Stars Programme.

Brandon’s message to the water industry:

As a result of PR19 and the business plans regarding OFWAT and other regulators, companies within the water industry will have to begin working together in order to overcome issues that may be upcoming within the future. An example of such issues could be Micro-Plastics, an issue coming into the water industry and is currently on the agenda since plastics are becoming a world-wide problem. It is also important to continuously develop new technology and further research into the equipment we use to detect leakage on a much wider scale, such as; Trunk Mains & Field Pipelines. New Technology is now being used to find leakage, one of the new development plans is to use Drones, allowing the industry to scan a wider geographical area using heat signatures in order to detect leakage in both hot and cold weather, this will decrease the time that is spent walking the mains. Using Drones within the water industry will allow employees to locate the site of the leak easier and faster.

Charlotte Rhodes

Network Asset Technician, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

Charlie (Charlotte) graduated from Aberystwyth University with a Bachelors degree in Physical Geography in 2015 and has always been passionate about the environment. After falling in love with Wales, Charlie was keen to stay there to begin her career and secured a contracted position in Dŵr Cymru’s Drinking Water Laboratory as a lab technician later that year.

There she stayed for 7 months before progressing into a permanent position in the Water Assets Risk Team as a data technician, focusing on data management, reporting and supporting the annual submission of Drinking Water Safety Plans to the DWI. A year later, she progressed to her current role of Network Asset Technician. Charlie is also an active member of the IW Welsh Area events committee and looks forward to exploring other areas of the water industry through the Rising Stars programme. Additionally, she is embarking on an Environmental Leadership Programme in her spare time with UpRising Cymru.

Charlie’s message to the water industry:

If Amazon can deliver parcels via drone within an hour, what’s stopping us having equivalent technologies and customer service? Adapting to our customers’ expectations has to be a key focus into the next AMP and beyond; exemplified by the rollout of smart meters in other utilities helping customers reduce their consumption, whilst also providing a valuable new data source on customer trends. By 2050 smart homes will be increasingly common, if not the norm, and we need to rise to the new opportunities this brings. I’m excited to be a part of Welsh Water’s 2050 Vision to be a “world class, resilient and sustainable water service for the benefit of future generations” and look forward to seeing this vision materialise.

Rose Shisler

Accelerated Management Trainee, Anglian Water

After three years working in forecasting and analytical roles within Anglian Water, Rose started on the Accelerated Management Programme at the end of 2017. She has had placements with the Integrated Maintenance and Repair and Clean Water teams across Anglian Water. Rose has worked on a number of projects including Customer Experience, Leakage Innovation, Team Engagement and Well-Being.

Rose will be spending the remainder of her programme in operational, technical and commercial roles, building a deeper understanding of Water Industry. Her goal is to develop professionally and personally, with a focus on leadership development.

One of Rose’s proudest achievements to date was projecting managing a WaterAid fund-raising event in which the team raised £6,500 for the Nepal Beacon Project.

Rose’s message to the water industry:

My passion is for continuing personal and professional development. I want to develop ways of bringing this into the Water Industry. I recognise that by giving the tools and knowledge to the people on the front line, we will be able to drive our priorities and strategies through all levels. I would also like to inspire our people to look for improvements within the industry and to create an environment of innovation, ensuring that we are continuously engaging our teams. I would like to support the goal of open and transparent development, progression, succession planning as well as reward and recognition.

On an individual level I would like to increase understanding and openness around Mental Health and Well-being. I would like to put measures in place to enable Team Leaders and Team Members to feel comfortable with these issues and to be able to support one another, both within the business and with our customers; allowing conversations about Mental Health and Well-Being to become an everyday part of our industry.

Rebecca Skuce

Project Manager, Scottish Water Horizons

Through studying Earth Science at The University of Glasgow Rebecca was first introduced to the water industry through elected Environmental Science courses. Rebecca continued her studies in Glasgow as a PhD student where she investigated the removal of nanoparticle pollutants from water and waste water which gave her an insight into critical water industry issues.

Rebecca joined Scottish Water as a Specialist Graduate in 2014 where she was assigned a role as a Waste Water Process Scientist.  This role enabled Rebecca to develop her technical knowledge and expertise; and resulted in Rebecca gaining responsibility for managing her own area of Waste Water Treatment Works in the Glasgow and Ayrshire regions of Scotland.

Rebecca recently joined the Business Development Team in Scottish Water Horizons, a commercial subsidiary of Scottish Water. As Project Manager, Rebecca is responsible for managing Scottish Water’s recently created Water and Waste Water Development Centres. Here, innovators, companies and researchers can test and demonstrate new technologies, products and processes under live conditions without risk to the utility’s vital operations.

Rebecca’s message to the water industry:

The planet is home to millions of species but we dominate it; currently we are consuming more resources than nature can provide. According to the Global Footprint Network to maintain our current consumption levels we would require 1.7 Earths! Clearly we have severe pressure on our resources. What are the solutions?

I believe the Water Industry has a key part to play in finding these solutions. Water is fundamental to life and so underpins all aspects of society and the environment. Water is the largest resource on Earth but only 3% of it is drinkable. The effective management of this precious resource is critical to meet our future needs and sustainability goals. But we can’t do it alone. We must work together with policy makers, academia and industry to solve these challenges as a collective.  I see this as a hugely inspirational time with a chance to make real change. My take home message to the water industry is to not think of the challenges but the opportunity.

Hayley Wakeford

Assistant Network Engineer, Portsmouth Water

Hayley currently works as an Assistant Network Engineer for Portsmouth Water, after just been promoted from working as an M&E Graduate Engineer within the Investment Department for the past 2 years. As an M&E Graduate Engineer, Hayley has gained project experience where she has led and managed numerous projects with a wide range of expenditure, some of her projects have included working on the Hampshire Bulk Supply for Southern Water, Borehole Condition Surveys, and River Ems Augmentation. Some of this work was completed whilst working part-time as she completed her degree in BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering graduating in July 2017.

Hayley is now continuing her studies part-time with a Masters in Water and Environmental Engineering with the support of Portsmouth Water.

Hayley has been an active member of the Institute of Water, since she first started in the industry in 2015, and has been involved in the South East Weekend School, a speaker at the Young Person’s forum where she spoke on the challenges that female engineers face, and also was privileged to attend the annual conference in Glasgow.

Hayley’s message to the water industry:

In 2017 surveys indicated that only 11% of the entire UK engineering workforce are female, and professionally registered female engineers has dropped to just 5%. Last year’s annual conference was on shaping the future, and there was a lot of discussion about how we need to be innovative and diverse in order to keep up with our customers’ expectations. Yet with a significant lack of females working in engineering, how can we be diverse and innovative when our engineering workforce is not? It is not just the engineering sector that is struggling to grow and develop.

In the technology sector the number of women working in information technology and computing in the UK represents only 15% of the total and is also not growing. In construction there is a similar story, one article notes that women make up just 11% of the workforce, but this figure is made up of many who work behind the desk,  and that out on site it is estimated that 99% of workers are men. As an industry we must continue to develop and encourage a more diverse workforce in order to bring in new skills to be able to keep up with our customers ever changing demands.