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Engineering change

Miranda Housden

Time to deliver after all of the talk.

The UK’s population is set to grow by 4.5M over the next 10 years, meaning there will be millions more users of our infrastructure networks.

Anticipating this demand, the government has published a blueprint of where and when we are likely to need new infrastructure. But we must be ready and staffed to build these projects.

We have consistently failed to attract enough creative young people, and the UK total of female engineers working within the construction industry is the lowest in Europe.

We cannot ignore the need to train more women, LGBT and black, asian and minority ethnic engineers, but we can only do this if we make careers in engineering visible, compel the industry to generate far greater flexibility in the workplace, and eliminate unconscious bias against “non-traditional” candidates during recruitment.

We need to recognise that the skills required for a job in engineering are changing.

We need cross-sector oversight, enhanced communication skills and cutting edge digital skills.

We need to capture the next generation of ambitious female school students currently examining their career options. Civil engineering should be at the top of their list.

It has been reported that companies where women are strongly represented at the top are also the companies that perform best.

Potential female engineers need role models to aspire to - not just women who have reached the top of the ladder but women who have managed to get married, have a family and still achieve a successful and fulfilling career.

This debate about gender is far more sophisticated than it once was, but we have a long way to go before we have genuine inclusive practices in our workplaces.

By understanding our staff, providing a working environment that caters to the busy lives of all employees, and embracing a realistic work-life balance, perhaps we can finally begin to manage the looming skills gap. We can only tap into the wider pool through creating agile organisations where all staff are able to be productive, are engaged and in control, where flexi-working is the norm, and where the “long hours culture” has been removed and non-linear careers have been truly encouraged. We need to prioritise the development of excellent managers at all levels and ensure fair assessment and reward.

To achieve these changes we will need an open, candid discussion. This week the ICE launches its latest film ” Engineering Change” at the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) conference and awards.

Calling for our industry to reflect societal changes, the film asks us to ensure that our future workforce will be able to respond to the rapidly changing globalised economy and start to work towards making it possible for all our members to have fulfilling family lives as well as rewarding careers.

Complementing and building on this short introductory film ICE is launching “ICE Talks”, a series of monologues and reflections on industry change and innovation. These can be found here

  • Miranda Housden, is ICE South West regional director

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