The issue of skills looms large over our profession.
Glen owen may 2018 crop
In fact, several skills-related issues stem from the challenge we have of delivering a huge programme of improvement to our (and the world’s) economic infrastructure within the next generation. Now this is a great challenge for us to face but it does mean that we have to do more to encourage the next generation to join our fantastic industry.
I have the privilege of meeting many aspiring civil engineers as part of my work in the east of England. These young people have usually been inspired by an engineer (often a parent or family friend) and are usually well informed about the industry. They typically have a clear view about their next steps towards a civil engineering career – unfortunately, they are a minority. In fact, most of the children I meet have no idea what they might like to do once they leave education.
Talking to young people
Therefore, I get the opportunity to talk to young people that have not considered a career in the construction industry and many more that are very certain that they do not want to work on a dirty building site. The typical school pupil and the vast majority of teachers I meet do not know much about the potential careers on offer within our sector at present. The new careers that will be on offer within a digitally proficient infrastructure sector are difficult to predict and so it would be naive to expect the typical school children or teachers that I meet to have a better understanding of these potential careers than us.
What I do know is that young people really benefit from talking to and learning from people that are working in our industry. Even those pupils that do not intend to become civil engineers can gain some insight into the other careers on offer. They might also be inspired to help us make the transformation to a digital future. At the very worst, they might understand that at least some of the mathematics and physics they learn about has an application in the real world.
I know that many of our members give up some of their spare time to visit schools and attend career fairs but it would be great if more were willing to join in – if only to offer a different perspective to young people about our very diverse industry.
Given it is our bicentenary year and the ICE is hosting numerous outreach events and activities around the country, there are more opportunities than ever to play a role. Frankly, any time that we can spare to meet young people so that they understand our industry a little better is going to help.
Therefore, if you would like to get involved with our efforts to inspire the next generation then let us know – you can do so by visiting https://www.ice.org.uk/about-ice/what-we-do/help-us-inspire-young-people.
● Glen Owen is regional director for the East of England and a chartered civil engineer