Hundreds of young engineers have been assisted by an ICE Quest scholarship. But today, too few are applying. Mark Hansford finds out what Quest has to offer.
Queen Elizabeth II may best remember 2002 as the year of her Golden Jubilee, but there is another reason for her to celebrate. It is also the 25th anniversary of the ICE-run Quest (Queen's Educational Scholarship Trust) scheme.
Inaugurated in 1977 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee, it has now helped over 600 civil engineering undergraduates and graduates through the early stages of their careers.
Each year 40 scholarships of up to £2,000 are available. With student debt mounting, financial assistance is more welcome than ever. Or so you would think.
But in recent years the Institution has been receiving fewer and fewer applications. This year, they barely covered the number of scholarships on offer.
Now the awards are to be relaunched in a bid to raise awareness of them.
The impenetrable applications process is being clarified and simplified, but standards required will remain high.
Applicants must demonstrate academic ability and the aptitude to become team players and leaders.
The Institution stresses that the awards are scholarships, not sponsorships. They will only be made to students who show a firm commitment to a career in civil engineering.
Candidates are chosen on all round ability: academic, cultural and sporting. Great attention will be paid to an applicant's character and potential for development, explains ICE professional development manager Niall O'Hea.
'The committee is anxious to ensure that the Quest scholars are worthy of their title, ' he says.
Most of the awards are annual scholarships for undergraduates taking an ICE accredited civil engineering course.
Twenty-five awards of up to £1,500 are allocated to school leavers entering a degree leading to CEng MICE.
Ten further awards of the same value are allocated to students on completion of their first year of a degree leading to IEng MICE.
Five awards of £750 are allocated to students on completion of their first year of study on an HNC/HND course in civil engineering/construction leading to Technician Membership.
The Quest scheme also offers valuable sponsorship to ICE members wishing to further their professional development through continuing education or travel overseas.
Continuing education awards of up to £2,000 are made to members seeking to return to full or part-time education in management or technical subjects after two years in the industry. Support is normally limited to 12 months and can include short training courses.
Travel awards of £2,000 are made to allow members to travel within Europe and internationally to study, to research local practice, to give a lecture, to attend an international conference, or to carry out any other activity in line with their continuing professional development.
Applications for Raleigh International or similar projects are accepted.
Support is also offered to ICE members wishing to join the RedR Field Experience Scheme, which offers short-term assignments with organisations such as the Gurkha Welfare Trust and Unicef.
Last year Jenny Burton was granted funds to cover the costs of flights, medical expenses and living expenses while in Ghana supervising a working party of Newcastle University students. Her view: 'I first went out to Ghana as part of Newcastle University's annual aid trip three years ago. We didn't think our project met the criteria for a Quest scholarship, so sought sponsorship elsewhere. But the following year's group applied and were successful, so last year we followed suit. All 12 of the group received a nice amount of funding, which meant more sponsorship money could go on materials for the actual project.'
This summer Danny Anstice was awarded £800 to write and present a technical paper at the first international conference of the International Association for Bridge Maintenance And Safety in Barcelona. His view: 'I saw it as a way to raise my personal profile, the company profile and that of the Institution. I have PhD background and have presented several papers in the UK, but this was my first opportunity to present abroad.
'My paper, describing an empirical model for the deterioration of reinforced concrete bridges subjected to deicing salts, was intended to bridge the interface between academia and industry. Coming from industry I got a bit of a grilling from the academics, but it was still a brilliant experience.'
Graham Davison-Smith received £1,500 over two years to allow him to take two years out of his career with Wessex Water and pay for a Chartered Industry of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) diploma.
His view: 'I had looked at my career and identified a need to get a wider understanding of the workings of the water industry. The CIWEM diploma seemed to fit the criteria, but the question was how to find the £2,500 to fund the first year, let alone a potential second year.
'I knew about the award through my work on ICE committees, and thought that a Quest scholarship would be a great way to prove to my company that I was serious, and persuade them to pay the difference. They did, and it has done a lot for me. From being pigeonholed into a role going nowhere, I have been regraded and my career has changed direction.'
Jolyon Antill received a £500 scholarship throughout his four year degree course at Cambridge University, supplementing sponsorship already negotiated with a consultancy. His view: 'I found out about the award in the 6th form while visiting potential universities. Because I was already sponsored I received half the usual amount, but it certainly helped pay my living expenses.
'Now, with students paying tuition fees, I'm sure it would be invaluable. Through the award I also got a contact at the ICE, which helped when I was looking for a job on graduation.
'By speaking to a regional liaison officer I was able to shortlist firms with a proven training record, and I have now followed this through by passing my professional review.'
Visit www. ice. org. uk or call the ICE professional development division (020) 7665 2012.