Connecting classrooms with careers across the Tees Valley.

Meet PD Ports Apprentice, Mia

After first being introduced to PD Ports through a High Tide programme over seven years ago, Mia has gone to complete a distance learning course while working as an Apprentice Hydrographic Surveyor at the firm.


As the largest private employer in the Tees Valley and a business of national importance, we recognise our duty, beyond the gates of the port, to inspire the next generation of our industry.

As the COVID19 crisis continues to inflict serious damage on our economy, the outlook for jobs has rarely been more uncertain – especially for young people looking to build a career. We know that the next generation will pave the future for our business and that by giving them the skills and experience required we could encourage them to go on to great things.

One of our greatest ambitions is to dispel the myths associated with the maritime industry and open the eyes of young people to the scale of opportunities on offer but our work, and our commitment, does not stop there. We also work closely with the talent already within our ranks to help each individual at PD Ports realise their full potential through apprenticeship schemes, development plans and further education opportunities.

PD Ports’ Apprentice Hydrographic Surveyor, Mia MacDonald, has recently graduated her distance learning course at Plymouth University, and we chatted to Mia about her career with PD Ports so far.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I never really had a particular career choice in mind; I just knew I wanted to do something that I enjoyed and not something that I had to do.

I was always that kid who asked ‘why’ and wanted to know how everything worked, so maybe it was obvious then that I wanted to do something related to engineering.

Tell us about how you started your career at PD Ports.

I came across PD Ports through the High Tide Foundation {PD Ports’ co-founded charity} – I applied for one of the schemes whilst I was in school as I was looking to gain some work experience.

I was successful in my application and went on to complete a weeklong work experience placement in the Conservancy department and I loved every moment. I truly had no idea of the opportunities that were right here on my doorstep until I visited PD Ports.

When the week was over, I contacted the HR department right away to see if there was any opportunities to continue gaining work experience and learn more about hydrographic surveying – a role that particularly interested me during my placement.

Apprenticeships in hydrography are quite unheard of, and the usual route into such a career is usually via the Navy, but PD Ports invited me to an interview within the team and, fortunately for me, offered me an apprenticeship to pursue my career within the business.

What is a typical day like for you in your role?

A typical day at work for me is heading out on the survey craft to complete a survey on a specific area of the river. Once we have determined which site to survey, it can take us up to 2-4 hours to complete depending on the size of the area!

Collecting accurate data takes lots of concentration to make sure we are reading all the information that filters through our four computer screens. Typical things we would look out for include any dangerously shallow areas or any obstructions or objects on the seabed.

Once we have collected all the required data, we travel back to the office – staying in touch with the Vessel Traffic System (VTS) officers to let them know our movements – to upload and analyse our findings.

We then carefully analyse the data before plotting on the charts for the Harbour Master so they know that they can safely guide vessels along the river. This has to be done incredibly carefully as reading data wrong could have serious consequences. For example, an extreme case would be incorrectly plotting river depth, which could result in a vessel going aground.

No day at work is the same as there are many variables that can affect our plans; things like weather conditions and tide times.

Find out more about Mia’s journey and the career opportunities available at PD Ports.

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