In last month’s New Civil Engineer, Sir John Armitt reflected on his year as ICE President, saying the role of engineers is to talk to the public a lot more than they are already doing.
He drew attention to how engineers need to have a better understanding of public expectations, but that we can only make this step change if communities understand what civil engineering really is, the vast number of sectors it covers and the complexity of how infrastructure interconnects.
The value of engineering is not fully understood, recognised or appreciated in the UK. Many often overlook civil engineering because of its hidden nature. As an industry we are not as self-promoting as other professions and, as a consequence, school leavers and students are being inspired by architects and mechanical engineers, rather than seeing the amazing opportunities that could await them by following a career in civil engineering.
“ICE Talks”, a series of short inspirational films from professionals within civil engineering, aims to address this lack of voice by giving civil engineering a human face to inspire the next generation and communicate to the wider public who civil engineers really are. With over 12,500 views across YouTube and Facebook alone, its reach is growing. Members such as Simone Bertram, Fola Ogunyoye and Alexis Field have shared some truly insightful, honest and funny observations and personal stories, showing that engineers really love the industry they are in. Their human insights invite dialogue and debate about why civil engineering matters.
The regional teams are also working together to illustrate the diversity and range of infrastructure schemes with an interactive map. Part of the ICE’s “This is Civil Engineering” initiative, the map will showcase award-winning and other significant civil engineering projects where they are in the world.
This map will give the industry a new way of communicating the importance of civil engineering and for members and the public who want to find out what is happening globally and in their communities. Using Google Maps’ satellite view as the interface, organisations will be able to submit projects to the site, sharing time lapse footage, interviews, photographs, diagrams and data, with each project visible online and shareable across social media platforms. The viewer will be able to search by sector and date – contemporary and historical. The map will be launched during the Institution’s bicentenary in 2018.
ICE Award winners will be added annually, and will also feature in the new ICE People’s Choice Award, a new competition that gives the public the opportunity to vote for a project which has a positive impact on their lives.
If we want the ear of our politicians and policy makers, we need their constituents to be better informed about the infrastructure that affects their lives. ICE Talks and the “This is civil engineering” map will provide the industry with new platforms and forums with which to engage and communicate the vital role our industry plays.
● Miranda Housden is ICE South West regional director