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Viewpoint | The next generation

Realising the potential of engineers takes more than a company policy or two.

Eve walkden cropped

Eve walkden cropped

Eve Walkden

From the careers fairs and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) events, the opportunities for an aspiring engineer always seem limitless and underestimated. The multifaceted work of civil engineers, and indeed any engineer, creates a workforce that needs to deliver a future fit for the next generation.

The moment you realise that engineers are in everything you do can be a really aspirational moment in your life. When first presented with the career choice some years ago, I felt engineers had to fit in a box, civil, electrical, mechanical etc. The truth of the matter is, that, any engineer, deep down aspires to the same thing, to make to world a better place.

Inclusion

The reality is, there are no dividing lines when it comes to the society we live in. You may close the door on the world, but television and increasing use of the internet and social media bring the outside in. The increased promotion of inclusion within society has seeped into our minds and the world of engineers. If what we want is to build a better place, then first we must know what a better place is; what is it that society needs and expects?

Finding the answer to society’s expectations requires a holistic view and an opportunity to share thoughts. In the early years, balancing career and life can provide insights, highlighting the burden of societal expectation and pressure. The ICE graduate and student voluntary community invites graduate and student members to attend local meetings providing an open platform to share knowledge, arrange events, network and grow as professional engineers. Being new to the industry, young members tend to question the status quo of the world and engage in innovative opportunities to deliver new knowledge.

Overcoming ’the way things are’

The confidence of new engineers can sometimes be overburdened with the “way things are”. Done well, mutual senior/junior mentorships can become a key to unlock and engage the next generation. However, does the current generation of engineers really hear what the new generation wants and can it deliver in the timeframes expected? Will future collaborative platforms and instant information gathering create a more connected world of engineering?

I am proud to say that over the last few years, I have seen the ICE graduate and student community grow to become diverse without any quotas. A naturally diverse community – across gender, age, career paths, religion, sexual orientation and parental/carer responsibilities etcetera – creates more interesting conversations and leadership opportunities. As a community, we engage with what matters to us, willing the industry to do better, communicate clearly and show that being an engineer is a truly diverse and rewarding career. This enthusiasm must be recognised, harnessed and promoted to realise the opportunities that already exist. The challenge really stands with the industry’s leaders to listen to the next generation, act on their expectations and together innovate the industry to make it fit for future engineers and, in turn, make the world a better place.

If you want to know more or be involved in the ICE graduate and student member voluntary community, contact gsnetchair@ice.org.uk and see our monthly updates on social media.

● Eve Walkden is chair of GSNet

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