Liam Harrison

UK & Europe

Liam Harrison is a Market Director for Atkins' Infrastructure division and is responsible for developing business around the UK’s biggest schemes such as the Northern Powerhouse, Crossrail 2 and the regeneration of Old Oak Common.

In 2012 Liam was responsible for developing an Olympic skills legacy which led to a collaboration with Citizens UK in East London and the development of the Pathways to Engineering scheme launched by the Mayor Of London in 2015. Through this scheme young people from disadvantaged backgrounds across London have completed work experience within the company, with several are now in full time roles.

Liam is also a trained business coach, focusing on career development and business orientated solutions. He practices this both internally within Atkins and externally with client bodies.

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Nowhere is this more important than in the Northern Powerhouse, where our clients are looking to use investments in transportation to not only create better connectivity to the rest of the UK, but to stimulate the jobs, housing and development the region needs to flourish.

With so many people looking at stations to help advance their cause, it’s crucial that we develop a masterplan and concept design that works for infrastructure owners, local and strategic planners as well as developers and investors. It’s imperative that we ensure all stakeholders’ views are taken into account on a new station, particularly at the early stages of projects, to develop a scheme that works for both the city and the wider region and builds confidence in its ability to deliver the anticipated benefits.

It’s vital that the station can benefit each and every stakeholder, without compromising the overarching objective, whether it be to deliver high speed rail or upgrade an existing station. It’s about creating partnerships with shared goals, where people understand both what is best for them and what is best for the greater good of everyone involved – where everyone works together to ensure a station achieves value for everyone.

A great example of this is Leeds Station, where we’re working with a carefully selected team to develop the masterplan that will transform the station into a distinctive, modern destination and fully integrated national transport hub. This will be a true partnership, combining each company’s unique expertise to deliver an integrated masterplan that will create a real and positive impact on Leeds as a city and as a key hub in the Northern Powerhouse.

A key aspect of the work at Leeds is also to look at how to maximise the commercial opportunities offered by the redevelopment of the station for the city and region, ensuring it offers real return on investment for all stakeholders. By bringing together industry experts with everyone impacted by the station – the Council, HS2, Network Rail, etc. – we are making sure that Leeds Station will indeed be ‘more than a station’.

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As the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics fast approaches it’s prompted me to look back at London 2012 and reflect on its lasting legacy. As HR business partner for Atkins at the time I was heavily involved in our work around skills, both the development of our staff working on the project and bringing in fresh talent to the engineering industry.

The London Olympics set a new engineering standard, both here in the UK and internationally. It was a fantastic opportunity for Atkins staff working on such a largescale infrastructure project and those lessons learnt and personal developments have been incorporated and benefiting subsequent projects ever since.

However, the skills legacy of London 2012 that I’m most proud of is definitely the impact it’s had on bringing young people into the engineering industry. Inspiring the next generation of engineers to build a sustainable future is critical to both the success of Atkins and wider society. This was emphasised in Atkins’ recent report, ‘The skills deficit: consequences and opportunities for UK infrastructure’. The publication predicts that infrastructure projects in the UK could experience higher costs, delays, or poor decision making and project delivery in coming years due to a lack of scientists, engineers and technicians.

Recognising that one of the key factors in the success of the London Olympics was the impact Atkins and our partners had on the local community, Atkins set up our Pathways to Engineering programme, providing work experience, training and support for young people, parents and teachers in East London during one of the most exciting times for engineering in the UK. The programme is part of Citizen UK’s ‘Good Jobs’ campaign which aims to help 8,000 talented young people from diverse backgrounds access a good job opportunity by 2020 and follows a successful pilot which saw 20 young people complete internships with Atkins, with eight now in full time employment with the company. We are not alone in this and are working alongside other well known partners such as Barts Health Trust, University College Hospital, OMD and JP Morgan who are developing pathways in other sectors.

Sanna Shabir, one of our first London interns, was recently named Apprentice of the Year at the ACE Consultancy and Engineering Awards 2016, gaining recognition for her contribution to projects and STEM work. Sanna is one of many examples of the potential payoff from investing time in students early on, both for their own career development and the wider industry.

The Pathways to Engineering programme is currently operating in schools across North East London but my ambition is to expand the programme to schools across the UK. Just like with the Olympics, the Northern Powerhouse is creating many exciting new projects that we should be getting young engineers involved in. 

So the lesson I learned from the Olympics is that big, exciting infrastructure projects are our best opportunity to engage young people in engineering, and London has plenty of those now. I am proud of the work Atkins carried out for the Olympic Games and in particular the legacy we’ve been able to build by working with schools and students ever since. But I see no reason for us to stop gaining momentum and we hope to extend Pathways to Birmingham soon. There are many exciting and large-scale projects taking shape across the country and we must continue sharing the possibilities of engineering with a young audience, helping them see what a difference engineering can make to the world.

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