Awards season for civil engineering may not have the glitz and the glamour of the Baftas, but it has to be said that the celebrations at the British Construction Industry Awards and at the ICE’s own awards were somewhat muted, despite the quality of the food and the company.
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We are not good as an industry at basking in the glory of our successes.
We may not be Hollywood celebrities but we arguably have a greater impact on the prosperity and happiness of the nation.
Every day the projects we are a part of transform the lives of the population in immeasurable ways, far more so than the latest cinema release.
Judging by the way we communicate our success and best practice our industry prefers to whisper rather than shout. Why is this? Is it our modest nature as engineers?
We seem to be afflicted by a double dose of British and engineer’s modesty.
It is often said that we focus too closely on the detail but then neglect to see the bigger picture and how our work changes people’s lives.
Every now and again we catch a glimpse of the real transformative impact our work can have.
This was apparent at the recent Saltire Awards in Scotland. The awards’ host had personally benefited from one of the winning projects, the M8, M73 and M74 improvements.
Thanks to this project, his journey to visit a terminally ill relative was made half an hour shorter.
The work of civil engineers gave him an extra half an hour with a loved one.
This is the very human, very important impact that each and every engineer on that project had helped to make possible.
There is a wider point to be made here as well. If we do not celebrate our achievements, and do not share our successes, then who will? We need to be our own advocates or the reputation of our industry will be at the whim of others.
We need to be pushing ourselves and achievements forward outside our sector if we are to remain competitive in future.
The ICE turns 200 next year and we are taking that opportunity to celebrate civil engineers’ ability to transform lives and safeguard the future.
This should be our default setting. We should stand tall, shout loud and be justifiably proud of the work that we do.
Half our work is doing a good job; the other half is sharing it. Invisible Superheroes is a very apt name for our ICE 200 exhibition next year. We need to work hard to drop the invisible part.
Achieving this vision will require not being stymied by our own modesty.
It would be naïve enough to imagine that in the future civil engineers will be honoured with red carpets and harassed by paparazzi.
But one must hope that civil engineers, who through their actions, provide the platform upon which our trade is carried out and make it easier for someone to spend precious time with their dying relative, find a way to speak up and out of our sector to get the recognition they rightfully deserve.