In the aftermath of the riots, it is up to us to bring out the best in our youngsters, says Steve Feeley.
As John Humphreys said on the BBC Radio Four Today programme, “who says nothing happens in August?”
The recent turmoil witnessed across English cities has left many of us wondering about the state of our nation.
Colleagues and friends from across the UK and around the globe were in touch to enquire ‘if we’re okay in Birmingham’, seeing the appalling scenes on some of our streets, and this was the same for many others living or working in the affected cities, as offices closed early for safe passage home.
After some reflection, and as the clear up continues, it’s important to reflect on the totality of our younger generation. For many of us who actively engage with ICE activity or simply as parents, relatives or friends, we all come into contact with amazing young people who give us hope, and not only for the next generation of engineers (civil hopefully!). The recent Create Sport design challenge across our UK regions engaged some 800 youngsters at its peak, and for those lucky enough to attend the final, to see the maturity, confidence and enthusiasm of those who took part, was a tonic.
Naturally gifted students from diverse backgrounds were shown the relevance of science, maths and the art of civil engineering, and how fantastic it would be to put them in the spotlight and help the nation reflect.
Similarly, during a school visit earlier this year I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of an entire maths year group (11 years old) whose hands shot up to be first with views on anything from Roman engineers to high speed rail.
While recognising that engineering ‘looks challenging’, the need to ‘work hard at my maths’ throughout school life was like a light being turned on for many who otherwise may turn away.
Across the UK, through our work on Apprenticeships, encouraging more Technicians, engaging with the emerging UTC’s and by speaking with Local Enterprise Partnerships (England), we must ensure that skills and infrastructure do not fall between the cracks of new regional governance arrangements. We must ensure there are opportunities for all.
As a non-engineer friend of mine recently pointed out on the anniversary of the Chilean mine rescue, ‘that was a miracle performed by civil engineers’ - high praise indeed, but the application of technology, knowledge, inspiration and dedication, did save and preserve life. Not all those delivering the UK’s infrastructure are in the spotlight, which is why staff and volunteers within the ICE will continue to work tirelessly across the UK with decision-makers, the public, and crucially our ‘future adults’. It is vital to show that with a little hard work and inspiration, you can reap the rewards of making a positive mark on society and on those around you.
- Steve Feeley is the ICE head of English regions and director, ICE West Midlands