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Making a difference

International development is set to be the focus of the ICE’s re-vamped apprenticeship scheme.

The ICE has decided to re-vamp its annual apprenticeship scheme as a large-scale international venture aiming to inspire the civil engineering world to make a substantial difference to developing countries.

Currently apprentices are based mainly in the UK, shadowing the ICE president around the country to learn more about the role and the Institution. In contrast, the 12 apprentices that senior vice president and president elect Paul Jowitt will select for his presidential year will get to take part in international training workshops by industry professionals in addition to shadowing the president and going on some site visits.

Successful applicants will gain international development experience in areas such as local capacity and skills development, anti-corruption measures and security issues and local government and partnership models.

One of the drivers behind the new apprenticeships comes from the United Nations with its Millennium Development Goals (UNMDG), which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and combating HIV, Aids and malaria by 2015.

At the root of these issues is the need for civil engineers to provide infrastructure so these countries are able to support themselves. “If we are going to continue to further international development in the future it’s these young engineers who will be doing it and we need to give them the knowledge to achieve it,” says Jowitt.

“Our future depends on resolving these problems and we need to inspire the new generation of engineers from all over the world.” International development organisation Engineers Without Borders chief executive Andrew Lamb agrees: “The challenge of development has to be fundamental to civil engineers, as solving these problems are the purpose of their profession. “It is simple engineering that needs to be used. The trick is to fit it into the political, social and economic climate, which is something we’re getting better at and the scheme will improve it more. I believe we can do it.”

Six apprentices will be chosen from the UK and Europe and half will be from ICE international regions. Although the selection process has not yet been confirmed, the ICE will be looking for highly motivated graduate engineers who are already working in industry.

The programme will begin in November, when Jowitt gives his Presidential Address in London. Here the apprentices will meet and then in January 2010 they will reconvene in South Africa and visit local infrastructure projects in Durban, before heading to Unesco in Paris. “The scheme will help the apprentices on their way to professional qualification. It is a very prestigious initiative that would look excellent on anyone’s CV, as it is such a unique opportunity,” says Jowitt.

“The challenge of development has to be fundamental to civil engineers, as solving these problems are the purpose of their profession”

Andrew Lamb

“But the benefits will extend to all young engineers, not just the apprentices themselves.” At each of the destinations the apprentices will undergo intensive professional development. These sessions will involve training in various topics from programme and project management, anti-corruption measures and security to development financing models and climate change. From this they will produce briefing cards, which will be available to everyone as a tool kit or handbook setting out their Engineering Project Delivery Plan for the UNMDG.

Jowitt is looking for more sponsors to help raise the £50,000 needed for the scheme. “We have almost half the amount but we need to secure the rest so we can make plans. It’s excellent that despite these difficult times firms are willing to invest in the programme.” The funding will cover apprentices’ travel expenses. Confirmed financial sponsors already include Ove Arup Foundation and MWH.   

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