Being a Young Engineer

This blog was written by Laura Nolan, Sustainability Engineer at Cudd Bentley Consulting

This blog was written by Laura Nolan, Sustainability Engineer at Cudd Bentley Consulting

What is it like to be a young Engineer?

I think it’s fair to say the term Engineer in itself is very broad so for the purpose of this blog my focus is my discipline, Building Services Engineering.

So how did I become an Engineer? Through my love of maths and problem solving, I chose to study a common entry Engineering Degree in Dublin Institute of Technology. Following the first year of Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I then chose the Building Services route as it seemed the most interesting to me and it was. It offered modules in a wide range of subjects from lighting design, fire engineering to smoke control and acoustics. As well as the heating, cooling and ventilation design as you would expect.

I graduated in 2010 from Dublin Institute of Technology to a bleak construction industry in Ireland so I looked elsewhere and succeeded in getting a job here at Cudd Bentley in Ascot. Since graduating and entering the workplace as a Consultant Engineer, no two days have been the same, each week offers new challenges and the range of projects I have been involved in has been exciting. Projects I have been involved in range from retail to residential, shopping centres to extensive refurbishment projects. I work as part of a team and although I am mainly office based, I regularly visit site to carry out inspections or for Design Team meetings, offering an enjoyable diversity to my job.

Quite quickly into my career I realised my interest in the area of Sustainable Engineering Design and with the support of my company, Cudd Bentley Consulting, I have completed a range of courses including CIBSE Low Carbon Energy Assessor, Elmhurst On Construction Domestic Assessor and Bentley Hevacomp modelling course to allow me to be proficient in thermal modelling and a Low Carbon Consultant. I really enjoy building modelling and have had the opportunity to work with some interesting models here at Cudd Bentley. I use my models to generate a variety of outputs including heat loss and heat gain calculations, energy and carbon saving potential, overheating analysis, Energy Performance Certification and Part L Compliance.

Sustainability is an area that I am particularly interested in and this year I have begun an MSc in Renewable Energy in Reading University. I enjoy learning and I don’t think I will ever be finished learning. Topics which I am particularly interested in currently are Nuclear Energy and the Feed in Tariffs Scheme for solar energy. I think it will be a real shame if the Government chose to drastically reduce the Feed in Tariff Scheme. I am also eager to see what will come from the Climate Change Conference, COP21, in Paris this month.

I have been attending events for the BSRIA Young Engineers Network for the past five years and I was delighted to be asked to be the Chairwoman of the Network this year. I would encourage all young Engineers to attend as it gives a unique opportunity to meet experts in their field, discuss current topics with your peers and to network with fellow young Engineers.

I was fortunate to be surrounded by highly experienced Engineers from the beginning of my career and one piece of advice I would offer every young Engineer is to immerse yourself in the knowledge of those people around you with such experience as well as making sure to put your own young and fresh approach to it where appropriate. The industry is constantly changing and it’s important to be constantly evolving.

Being a young Engineer is challenging, exciting and for me a fantastic career.

Is construction still a losing game for most women?

Julia Evans, BSRIA Chief Executive

Julia Evans, BSRIA Chief Executive

Politics is all about attempting to second-guess the mind of the electorate. Although cynics might cast a sceptical eye at the timing of the Cabinet reshuffle, the fact that women are more prominent in politics is a cause for celebration. After all, women make up 52% of Britain’s population, so increasing female ministers to around a quarter of the Cabinet (6 out of 17) is a belated step in the right direction1. But when there are so many talented women, why is it that more of them don’t achieve high office?

Before we cast too may stones, we in the construction industry need to have a good look in the mirror. Women make up just 11% of the workforce and our industry’s lack of progress towards equality is shameful. Aside from the lack of diversity, from a practical perspective, with one in five workers soon to reach retirement the industry needs to increase its skilled workforce. It needs to thus start attracting and retaining talented professionals regardless of gender, age or ethnicity (needless to say, ethnic minorities are also under-represented in construction2).

Women have struggled to get an equal footing in construction, but the representation of women in our industry has waxed and waned in recent history, demonstrating that, left to chance, both government leadership and the fluctuating demands for skilled labour can be persuasive. Perhaps Nicky Morgan, the new Minister for Women and Equalities ought to have something to say about this too.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of women who work as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is currently so low as to be essentially unmeasurable. It hasn’t always been like this. In the 18th century, women in Britain worked as apprentices “in a host of construction occupations, including as bricklayers, carpenters, joiners and shipwrights”. However, by the early 19th century, with changes in legislation and new divisions of skilled/unskilled labour, women became increasingly excluded. By 1861 trades including that of carpenter, plumber, painter, and mason, were subsequently largely ‘male’3.

The First World War led to a marked increase in women in the building trades through a government agreement with the trade unions which “allowed women into skilled male jobs as long as wages were kept low and they were released at the end of the war”. During the second world war, there was similarly an estimated shortage of 50, 000 building workers, so the National Joint Council for the Building Industry agreed that employers should identify whether any men were available first before a role was filled by a woman (who earned, on average, 40% less their male counterparts—and it’s still not perfect now, with women earning c10% less4). The bias of the apprenticeship systems and trade unions were largely responsible for the fact that women in the building industry declined once more from the 1950’s to ‘70s3.

We’re currently back to the issue of a lack of available skilled labour. The government recognises this, and I welcome the recently announced BIS funding call specifically designed to help women progress as engineers. The funding will support employer-led training to encourage career conversions and progression in the industry. This call is in response to a recent report identifying that “substantially increasing the number of engineers would help the UK economy […] and the potential to significantly increase the stock of engineers by improving the proportion of women working in engineering jobs”5.

Carbon Comfort event 14th March-lowFunding new training opportunities is a great step forward, but to see real change we need industry leaders to be proactive in embedding a more diverse and inclusive work culture. The majority of women aged 25-45 find that attitudes, behaviours and perceptions are the greatest barriers3.

If you feel there is nothing new in the story, then the words ‘ostrich’ and ‘sand’ come to mind. It is about you. It’s about you and how you and your business behave now, not just when we have the time given that the recession is over and it’s a ‘nice to do’.

So, inspirational leadership—and not just policy—will foster a more inclusive and skilled workforce. Look around you. How many women are in senior management roles? What is your office culture really like? Is your organisation progressive or part of the problem? And, most importantly, what are you going to pledge to do about it?

1 Reshuffle 2014: Women control one in four pounds of government spending. Huffington Post, 15 July 2014

Inquiry into Race Discrimination in the Construction Industry, Action Plan. Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010

3 Building the future: women in construction, The Smith Institute, 2014

Gender pay gaps 2012. David Perfect, Equality and Human Rights Commission Briefing Paper 6.

 Employer ownership: developing women engineers,BIS, 23 June 2014

Why do women leave architecture? Ann de Graft-Johnson et al., 2003.

If you are interested in careers at BSRIA then please check out our website. We also have an extensive training programme covering topics like BIM and the Building Regulations. 

%d bloggers like this: