This summer our London office hosted our fourth group of aspiring engineering students for a fantastic week of project tours, hands-on activities and one-on-one mentoring. The Aspiring Professionals Programme, organized by the Social Mobility Foundation, is a residential week for students from across the UK who are high achievers but come from either a low-income background or are the first in their family to go to university. The students go through a competitive application process and are placed with engineering, accounting, banking, legal or medical employers, depending on their interest. This year, our group consisted of 10 men and 10 women, 12 of whom were people of color.
The UK’s current engineering skills gap is 182,000 people per year (projected through 2022). So the only way to keep our talent pipeline flowing (and our clients happy) is to ensure we have enough engineers to compete for and deliver our clients’ work.
The Aspiring Professionals Programme, now in its fourth year, provides a week of activities aimed at deepening the students’ understanding of engineering. The students receive a mentor for the year who will help them apply for higher education and prepare for interviews. The CH2M Foundation gives the Social Mobility Foundation US$100,000 each year to support this important programme.
“We’re committed to opening up STEM opportunities for young people from all backgrounds and involving our talented employee volunteers,” said CH2M Foundation Executive Director Ellen Sandberg. “The Social Mobility Foundation has been an outstanding partner for us, helping us to fill the talent pipeline to build the next generation of British engineers.”
This year, the young people heard presentations from our tunnels and rail team and participated in activities to help them climb into the mind of an engineer…from bridge building to High Speed Rail stakeholder engagement. They also got to visit some of our most iconic projects from the London Olympics to Thames Tideway. We also added a visit to our Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 programme, where the students heard presentations from across our integrated delivery team, including from the finalist for Apprentice of the Year, Will Mathew. The talk provided insights on the different routes to get a career in engineering as well as varied career paths. We ended the week with a visit to the Thames Barrier and a tour with one of our global key clients: the Environment Agency.
One of our volunteers, bridge engineer Vikki Kelly, thoroughly enjoyed her volunteer experience. “The students were paired up with a buddy to shadow them for the day. The aim was to show them a typical day in the life of an engineer and the work they could be involved in,” said Vikki. “We had prepared a mini-project for the students to work on, which involved coming up with ideas and designs for a long span bridge. This project was a good way to explain the different types of bridges, how they worked and the many challenging factors that we face. The young girl shadowing me, Ariba, was enthusiastic and had many relevant and interesting questions. She is keen to study either civil engineering or physics and is excited at the prospect of being able to travel with her job. In the afternoon, we set the students up to work on Sketch-Up, which is a great, user-friendly 3D visualization software. Ariba was able to bring her preferred bridge design from the morning to life, and it was a super way of discussing the construction challenges around bridges.”
Thanks to our 50+ employees who helped make the week a success! We look forward to seeing our rising star engineers in the organization in the future. As Vikki said, “Seeing the enthusiasm and enjoyment it brought to the students made me appreciate just how great my job is. It’s exciting that the new generation of engineers will be a passionate group.”
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