An ICE member has won a national award for her work encouraging local students to explore a career in engineering. Elizabeth Orchard, who works for Peter Brett Associates in Reading, received the award for most dedicated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ambassador in the UK, during a ceremony at the House of Lords last week.
The STEM ambassadors programme is an initiative partly funded by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. It encourages scientists, engineers, mathematicians, architects and others to visit schools and work on projects to help children engage with STEM subjects.
As well as collaborating with two local collages, Orchard is fulfilling her duties as an ambassador by helping to design a new computer science and engineering curriculum for Reading University Technical College.
In his Presidential Address earlier this month ICE President Barry Clarke praised the work of STEM ambassadors, saying they had “the strongest chance of inspiring the next generation, due to them representing an achievable position and exuding an energy youngsters can associate with.”
But Clarke also raised concerns about the low number of civil engineering ambassadors. “There are only 400 civil engineering STEM ambassadors,” he said. “Staggeringly, that equates to only one for every 2,000, 11 year olds.”
It is estimated that the UK will need 830,000 graduate-level STEM experts and 450,000 technicians by 2020, with 80% of those in engineering.
Clarke said he hoped Orchard’s success “would encourage more young engineers come forward to take on this rewarding role - helping to inspire the next generation of civil engineers and ensuring the profession can continue to deliver the infrastructure projects of the future”.
The award includes a trip to CERN in Switzerland - home of the Large Hadron Collider. “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to receive the Most Dedicated Ambassador Award,” said Orchard.
“I volunteer as a STEM Ambassador because I love my job and want to share that with young people; in turn, their excitement as they learn what I do for a living helps keep my passion for it alive. It’s not hard to be dedicated because it’s so much fun.”