Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Graduate awards: Get on the road to success

With entries now being sought for NCE’s Graduate Awards 2009, David Hayward profiles the 2008 winner Emma Kent.

Hard hitting news reporter is the latest reward offered to NCE’s current graduate superstar Emma Kent. Last week the 25 year old Buro Happold structural engineer had a 40 minute meeting with new construction minister Ian Lucas and it turned out to be anything but a cosy coffee and biscuits chat.

Top of a long list of issues she succeeded in raising was the ongoing plea for the government to appoint a chief construction officer.

“I have got the message from your industry loud and clear.”

Ian Lucas, construction minister

“You have medical and scientific advisors, but the lack of one for construction belittles the status of an industry without which the country could not function,” she told the minister.

Her questioning produced an unexpectedly positive response. “I will make an announcement very soon,” replied the minister. “I have got the message from your industry loud and clear. I know what you want and am working on it.”

Pushing the agenda

Kent’s agenda ranged from a guarantee for sustained construction investment, to providing government financial support for new unemployed graduates to work with construction related charities such as Engineers Without Borders. “A positive suggestion which I will happily look at,” said Lucas, responding to this latter idea. Kent left delighted with the minister’s overall response.

“Considering construction is just one of his nine ministerial interests, alongside the aerospace, defence and chemical industries, I was impressed with his detailed knowledge of our sector,” she said.

“I was impressed with his detailed knowledge of our sector.”

Emma Kent, NCE Graduate of the Year

The minister left for a cabinet meeting with NCE under his arm − fully aware of the concerns of our younger engineers and expressing delight at the quality of graduates unearthed by the NCE Awards.

Kent then went straight to the ICE to brief director general Tom Foulkes on her ministerial encounter. “The Graduate Awards are great at encouraging and rewarding our young ambassadors,” said Foulkes.

Now halfway through her reign as Graduate of the Year, Kent maintains that the recognition gained within her own company, triggered by the award, has helped get her noticed.

Getting noticed

She has progressed from being a member of a large team designing a £250M football stadium to becoming a key player in the design of Slough’s new £6M bus station. “I interview prospective tenderers and am influential in choosing the winning contractors,” she said.

Her £1,500 award prize is still earmarked to fund a trip on the Trans-Mongolian Railway to Beijing, where she wants to study Chinese construction. But, with several of her graduate colleagues facing credit-crunch induced redundancy, and her own salary just cut by over 12% − so she now earns £1,000 less than on graduation two years ago − Kent feels such luxuries must wait.

“It is vital construction retains that graduate base.”

Emma Kent, NCE Graduate of the Year

Her advice to new graduates struggling to find employment is not to work for free − “that devalues all our dreams” − but to be flexible and look at wider, possibly lower, expectations.

“It is vital construction retains that graduate base essential when the upturn arrives” she claimed. “So it worries me that a close school friend is now a contented biology teacher earning more, for shorter hours and much longer holidays.”

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.