When I first chose to study civil engineering and take it up as a career, people were quite shocked. There is often a misguided belief that engineering can be “dirty manual work”. But it is far more diverse and creative than people expect, especially given the rapid changes in technology.
I was recently nominated, for a 2017 Women in Construction Award. To see and hear about all the incredible achievements of my fellow finalists was not only inspiring, but reminded me how far the industry has come.
Muddy and male
Of course, more can be done – as demonstrated by the continuing lack of young people choosing engineering as a career. Engineering is still perceived by many as a muddy and male-orientated environment, but this just is not the case. It requires creative, practical and problem-solving skills in abundance, yet this is not fully communicated at schools, so many fail to understand the prospects it presents.
This workforce diversity is something Mabey aims to tackle through its apprenticeship programme, and work in local schools and universities. It’s about shifting the “muck and bullets” image and demonstrating the varied range of careers out there.
Opportunities are definitely increasing and I have found that as the nature of engineering evolves, so has my role. Working in Mabey’s development team, I am responsible for injecting a collaborative approach to our projects. As a funnel for 500 staff, I evaluate new ideas and innovations to see how we could use them across our own products.
One such example of using intuition to make our customers’ (and our) lives easier was a project to design a lightweight soldier for use with formwork. The team realised that, with a few minor changes, the soldier could also double up as a propping system. Following an extensive testing procedure to simulate this new product in use, we proposed this alternative to the client, and they were thrilled.
Examples like this fit into a much wider picture of innovation – anticipating the future needs of our customers to ensure we are providing them with the best advice and the right solution.
Mabey is very much at the forefront of this innovation. For example, the introduction of LiveBIM, a digital 3D modelling solution in which rail, roads and bridges are connected with sensors to provide real-time insights into structural behaviour for engineers. This is alongside recent revolutions like the Super Bracing Strut-1000, a strut which is capable of supporting higher capacities at longer spans – just two examples of our work to provide fast, safe and efficient solutions. Digital engineering more broadly is particularly exciting – transforming project management and delivery – while also providing opportunities for younger generations keen to embark on a 21st century, digitally-focused career.
In my role, I get to be imaginative – looking at tomorrow’s problems and finding solutions today – I hope I can help inspire and challenge younger generations to do the same.
● Anna Preston is Mabey’s development team leader
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