An interview with Will Oxbrow, Graduate Project Manager at Passiv

April, 2023

What is the BUUK graduate scheme?

The BUUK graduate scheme is a programme which provides the opportunity to gain an understanding of the various businesses, departments and operations within BUUK.

The scheme lasts for two years, with a good proportion of your time spent within your allocated business ‘stream’. Over the course of the two years, you spend four to six-week rotations with other businesses and departments to improve your technical competence while developing your relationships and connections across the organisation. On rotation, you are given ownership of projects and tasks and stay in touch with the workload you have within your stream.

Depending on the requirements of BUUK businesses, longer placement opportunities can also arise. This gives the chance for you to jump into a more defined role for a longer period. For example, over the past 12 months, I’ve completed a seven-month secondment as a Commercial Analyst for Metropolitan and a three-month secondment as a Project Manager for Passiv UK.


What attracted you to the BUUK graduate scheme?

As an Energy Engineering graduate, the utilities sector and the requirement for energy transformation was of particular interest to me and was one of the main reasons I applied for the role at BUUK. With BUUK’s multi-utility offering, I knew that my workload within the construction department at GTC would be varied and that I’d have the opportunity to see what the different companies do on-site, how they operate day-to-day and the varying strategies in place moving forward.

Another reason I was attracted to the BUUK graduate scheme was the support and training provided on my professional development journey. Whilst on the scheme, I am encouraged to join engineering institutions, participate in events and enrol on training courses to further my career. BUUK also provided me with company-appointed mentors to give me guidance and support as I develop as a professional. This has been particularly useful in my recent application for Incorporated Engineer status.


What have you been working on at Passiv?

Over a three month period, I’ve had the opportunity to work for Passiv UK as a Project Manager. This has introduced me to the market-leading work that takes place at Passiv. I have been involved in several projects, developing project initiation documents, project plans, research papers and more.

One project I have been working on throughout my time with Passiv has been the Vehicle to Heat Pump project. This project looks at utilising electric vehicles and their batteries to power a domestic heat pump and other appliances within the home at times of the day where electricity demand is at its peak. This reduces the amount of electricity consumed from the grid while prices are at their most expensive. A lot of research and development was required to understand the project, its objectives and the potential commercial viability of the technology over the next 10 years.

Hymaker Phase 2 was another project I had the chance to work on while at Passiv. This project involved working with the Welsh Government to complete a full installation of two cascaded air source heat pumps alongside an existing boiler to provide heat to a large three-storey office building on the Port of Milford Haven. Passiv’s smart system controls will optimise the heating system.


What have you enjoyed about working at Passiv?

One thing I particularly enjoyed whilst working at Passiv was the unique nature of each of the projects I was involved with. Every project has an element that is completely new and unexplored, which requires the team to communicate across departments to ensure the objectives are achieved. This requires a greater emphasis on research and development and the growth of Passiv’s knowledge base to ensure a successful project.

Passiv’s focus on energy transformation and ways they can help drive and implement change to benefit the UK and end-users is another reason I have enjoyed working here. All projects have a clear focus on the ever-evolving energy market with considerations of how the company can extract experience and expertise in the various technologies available. Each project helps to aid and bolster the Passiv offering.


What’s been the highlight of your time at Passiv?

My highlight at Passiv was completing the research paper for the Vehicle to Heat Pump project to aid the product specification and project delivery. This gave me freedom to research and understand the current Vehicle to Everything (V2X) market and form an overview of where the technology was at commercially. I investigated previous Vehicle to Grid (V2G) case studies, bidirectional chargers, connector requirements, communication protocols, compatible vehicles and markets. This allowed me to conclude the best approach required for the project. It gave me a real insight into a technology that could produce huge benefits to the optimisation, balancing and shifting of demand on the grid as it becomes electrified.


What excites you about Passiv’s business?

The thing that excites me most about Passiv is the fact they are very much ahead of the game on home energy optimisation and how end-users can utilise these services to heat and power their home more effectively, saving them money in the process. The market-leading nature of the projects they have been involved with over the past 10 years has led to Passiv being true experts in the optimisation of assets in the home – particularly heat pumps.

As the ban on new gas boilers comes into place, I feel the expertise Passiv has in the heating sector will allow them to offer a unique service to both the retrofit and new-build markets. With the development of BUUKs district heating solution, I particularly look forward to seeing how Passiv’s expertise will aid in reducing the load requirements on the electricity network through balancing and optimisation of heat usage to dwellings through the energy centre.


What will you be doing next as part of the BUUK graduate scheme?

Following my time with Passiv, I will be continuing my rotations within BUUK. This year, I will be spending some time with Independent Water Networks Limited (IWNL), BUUK’s water company. Here I will aim to broaden my knowledge on our water solution, as this becomes a larger portion of the BUUK multi-utility offering.

After some time with IWNL, I have four weeks planned with the GTC Electric team. Whilst there, I intend to dedicate some of my time to understanding how electrification is affecting GTC’s networks and how we are managing the additional load requirements for EV chargers, heat pumps and other assets. My learnings from Passiv will come in useful here!

I finish my rotations on the graduate scheme this year, where I will be looking to move into a more permanent role in the company to further enhance my skills and knowledge.


What advice would you give to people thinking about enrolling on a graduate scheme?

My first piece of advice would be to make sure to take opportunities when they present themselves to you. Even if it’s something completely different to your streamed role, it is a great way to develop your overall skillset and give an edge to your personal portfolio.

My second piece of advice would be to challenge yourself. The graduate scheme, and BUUK, present a plethora of opportunity to take on complex projects and tasks. Even if they’re completely new to you at first, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone gives you real opportunity to develop your competence and take ownership of work.

My final piece of advice would be to reach out. Whilst you are on the scheme, you meet a lot of people and form lots of relationships. This provides you with a network with a wealth of knowledge across the organisation. Use this to your advantage and reach out to people if you are curious, want to learn something or even spend time within a department. From my experience, everyone at BUUK has been supportive and willing to help whenever I have posed a question.