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Engineers unite to promote engineering careers

The ICE and construction firms hosted a range of activities to promote civil engineering to young people during Tomorrow’s Engineers week in early November.

The activity programme included an engineering workshop in Wandsworth, held by ICE London, where Year 5 students at Swaffield Primary School were challenged to design and construct a shelter.

An engineering extravaganza day was organised by ICE Yorkshire in association with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Institution of Engineering & Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

This involved schoolchildren from St John’s Fisher Catholic High School in Harrogate working with engineers to build replica 4,000mph vacuum tube trains, supersonic vehicles and skyscrapers from Lego.

Mott MacDonald at Tomorrows Engineers

Engagement: Mott MacDonald ran activities aimed at school children

In the West Midlands, 17 engineering organisations took over the atrium at ICE West Midlands’ office base at Innovation Birmingham to provide interactive, fun activities for 150 school children aged between 13 and 15 years old.

Network Rail staff demonstrated an interactive “building a new railway” decision-making activity. ICE STEM ambassadors ran gumball and marble run challenges and Rolls Royce’s gave a hands-on demonstration of a fuel metering unit.

The ICE worked with Joanna Anderson from Mouchel on a special Tomorrow’s Engineering week song for young people.

It also released a short film by civil engineer Josh Macabuag in which he explained how he used his engineering skills to help shore up earthquake damaged buildings in Nepal following the earthquake, and to locate those trapped inside them.

Women’s civil engineering careers: Case study

Tony Gee & Partners senior engineer Catherine Whitehead discusses the importance of knowing about civil engineering as a career option early on, how it felt to pass her chartered professional review, and her work on a temporary footbridge for the London 2012 Olympics.

Catherine Whitehead

Whitehead: Enjoys problem solving

What first got you interested in civil engineering?

I never knew what I wanted to do, but was told my strength was in maths. I knew I didn’t want a career in finance, and the thought of seeing the end product after design interested me. When I was 16 there was a talk on the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff at a school careers day and that piqued my interest in civil engineering.

Did you have any female civil engineer role models?

No. I decided to follow a career path that suited me regardless of what others thought. I was definitely in the minority, all the teachers at school thought it was a strange choice.

What would you say to other young females considering it as a career?

Go for it! It’s an exciting career where the boundaries are always being challenged on the high profile multimillion pound projects as well as the smaller temporary works schemes. There is always a problem to be solved.

What do you think would encourage more youngsters into civil engineering?

Knowing about it earlier on. Many fall away from science after GCSE and opt for their favourite subject based on current trends. The more options that are open to students at a younger age the more aware they are of the opportunities.

What did it mean to you to become Chartered?

It’s what I’d been working towards since university. It was an accomplishment of a goal - a real milestone in my career.

What are you currently working on?

I’m involved in the detailed design of a new road and footbridge for the University of Northampton’s new Waterside campus. I’m specifically assisting with the substructure designs and other ancillary structures. I’m also involved with temporary works designs at the Shell development centre outside Waterloo.

What is the most rewarding part of the role?

I enjoy working on smaller schemes - in particular temporary works - where you have a shorter turn around period and can see the result of the drawing come to life.

What is the most challenging aspect?

Keeping up with client expectations and deadlines, but it’s all part of the challenge working in live environments.

Career highlight so far?

It has to be my project engineer role on the Eton Dorney temporary footbridge across the River Thames for the London 2012 Olympics. Liaising directly with the contractor and working to tight programmes allowed me to really enhance my project management and civil engineering skills.
Are you involved with any other initiatives?

I am a STEM Ambassador working with Satro in Surrey. I take part in careers “speed dating” events in schools across Surrey.

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