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Speaking about STEM

Dave Gent | 06 Oct 2015 | Comments

These days the promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers is big news. It has been gaining prominence for a number of years and in my days as a graduate engineer I spent a lot of time volunteering in schools, promoting the industry as a STEM Ambassador. I found it to be a very rewarding experience, whether it was a project planning exercise involving the economical use of building blocks or as a guest ‘engineering specialist’ on children’s television. Not only because I was out there promoting a subject that I have a real passion for, but because on arriving at the schools where I was volunteering, I would quite often find a group of disinterested teenagers and by the time I left, after what seemed to be a long day, I could see in the faces of those same teenagers a sense of achievement. My respect for teachers grew with every event!

Now my career has progressed I rarely get to take time out and volunteer but as a supervising civil engineer I urge all of the trainees I am mentoring to take the opportunity to do so. Thankfully Atkins, as I’m sure other consultancies do, provides a number of volunteering days per person so there is no issue of people being reluctant to do things in their own time. Even so, I try to stress how rewarding taking part in these opportunities is. The social spotlight on this area of education has only increased the opportunities to get involved.

As well as personal development, volunteering and promoting the industry also ticks several professional development boxes, which are often required by the professional bodies we all aspire to recognition with. So as well as feeling good about yourself you are progressing your career and topping up those Initial Professional Development (IPD) days.

Besides personal and professional development, promoting STEM careers is important to ensure we inspire the next generation of engineers. We are still suffering a shortage of engineers in the UK, at all levels and in all disciplines. Personally, I think this is partly due to past underfunding and partly due to the recent recession, but I also think a big part of the problem is that people generally don’t realise how varied and interesting a career in engineering is. I’ve had so many opportunities as an engineer that I don’t think I would have had otherwise. It is hard to name a favourite, but designing a ‘bat wall’ to rehome bats on the former Longbridge Plant site in Birmingham surely has to be the most bizarre.

If we can show people how rewarding it is to be an engineer then we are halfway to winning the battle.