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Event Organiser: ICE

ICE Strategy Session: Covid-19, Artificial Intelligence, and the future of the Civil Engineer, online

  • Webinar
  • Online
  • 08 December 2020
  • 09:00 - 10:30
ICE Strategy Session: Covid-19, Artificial Intelligence, and the future of the Civil Engineer, online

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The Covid-19 pandemic is encouraging many civil engineering firms to confront directly what many of them already knew – that the future business model is unlikely to support large numbers of employees sat in front of computers and based in expensive locations. The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the thinking of Professor Richard Susskind, whose 2015 book “The Future of the Professions” confronts this challenge directly.

Civil engineers are already experiencing this challenge in several different ways. For recent graduates, this may mean increased difficulty in finding employment because many entry-level roles no longer exist. For those with more established careers, this may mean challenges in accessing the upskilling needed to work with the digital technologies that are now being rolled out. For senior executives, the challenges include strategic decisions about present and future digital technologies and how best to deploy them.

Given the necessary multiple perspectives on this topic, this event provides three contrasting voices to discuss it: a keynote presentation by Professor Richard Susskind; brief responses by four current chief executives in infrastructure; and a Q&A session chaired by a President’s Future Leader exploring the impact on both current and future civil engineers at all stages of their career.

Invited to speak in more than 60 countries, Professor Susskind argues the assumption that engineering jobs – even “creative or innovative” ones - are ‘safe’ from destruction by digital technologies is fundamentally misplaced.

Susskind argues that machines do not ‘only’ process information, they also perform tasks that apparently require creativity or innovation, even if they use different methods than human cognition. Furthermore, Professor Susskind argues, many professionals tend to underestimate digital technology’s impacts because they focus on the processes that make up their working lives rather than the outcomes that clients want.

The way forward, argues Professor Susskind, cannot be competing with digital technology, but to be involved in building the systems that will replace civil engineering jobs of today. This then raises some very important questions about what future civil engineering roles will be, the business models that can support civil engineering, and what training and education is needed to get them there.

In this special Strategy Session, Professor Susskind will offer a 20 minute keynote before inviting a response from a panel of senior business leaders who are at the forefront of confronting and embracing this challenge.

We will ask our panel to reflect on Professor Susskind’s thesis and explain how they may – or may not - be adapting their graduate and apprentice recruitment strategies to confront this new reality.

Fundamentally, in the wake of Covid, we will ask them to explain how they see the future for emerging civil engineering professionals.

An open Question & Answer session chaired by one of the President’s Future Leaders will then permit all attendees to invite comment from the panel on the issues facing civil engineers both today and into the future.

The session is being delivered as part of ICE’s Engineering Rebellion project which is seeking to answer the question: “Who are the future civil engineers and how does the ICE support them?”


Mark Naysmith

Mark Naysmith

Chief Executive Officer, UK, South Africa & Israel

Mark is a Statutory Director of several UK subsidiary companies that form part of WSP Global Inc, a Canadian listed professional services corporation, having joined the business in 1988. He presently holds the position of Chief Executive Officer for the UK, South Africa and Israel and is a member of WSP’s Global Leadership Team and Chair of the UK Executive Committee and UK Executive Leadership Team. Having started his career as a civil and structural engineer, Mark spent the majority of his practicing career as a transport planner.

Mark is responsible for setting and implementing strategic direction, encouraging technical innovation, operational efficiency and leadership, to ensure the best outcomes are achieved for shareholders, clients and staff.

He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Fellow of the ICE and CIHT, with a BEng Hons (1st) in Civil and Transportation Engineering. In 2018 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering (Dr.Eng) by Edinburgh Napier University in recognition of the contribution he has made to the built and natural environment. In 2014, Mark was awarded the Association for Consultancy and Engineering - European Chief Executive of the Year Award.

Mark also holds a Board position at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering together with membership on the Edinburgh Napier University Development Board.

Chris Young

Chris Young

Managing Director

Chris is Chairman of the Executive Board of Tony Gee, responsible for the strategic development and growth of the business. He has a background in many areas of civil engineering design specialising in the rail sector in later years prior to taking up the MD role in 2018.

Since then he has been involved in continuing to develop and grow the business through enhancement of existing capabilities and fostering development of staff within the business and has a passion for helping others meet their potential.

Suzannah Nichol MBE

Suzannah Nichol MBE

Chief Executive

Suzannah is the Chief Executive of Build UK, the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry.

Inspired by a site visit during a week’s work experience, she achieved a degree in Construction Management before starting her career as a site engineer. She then qualified as a health and safety professional before taking over the reins at the National Specialist Contractors’ Council. After 13 years leading the specialist sector, Suzannah was the driving force behind the merger to form Build UK, bringing the industry together within one organisation. Under her leadership, Build UK is at the forefront of improving business performance, increasing productivity and recruiting, training and retaining talent across the industry.

A passionate advocate for construction, Suzannah is recognised and respected for her work with government, media and key industry stakeholders. She was awarded an MBE in 2005 and is a member of the Construction Leadership Council’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Rachel Skinner

Rachel Skinner


Rachel is Executive Director (Transport) of WSP and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. She is also the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 2019, she was appointed by the Scottish Government as a Commissioner for the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland.

Rachel is a Patron of Women in Transport (a not-for-profit), having been one of its founding board members since 2005. She is a chartered engineer, chartered transport planner and an ICE Fellow and Trustee.

Rachel was named in The Telegraph’s inaugural Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering in 2016, then in 2017 she won both “Most Distinguished Winner” and “Best Woman in Civil Engineering” at the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards.

In 2019 she was confirmed by the Financial Times as one of the UK’s Top 100 Women in Engineering. She is regularly invited to give keynote conference presentations and to chair or participate in panel discussions at national industry events.

A transport planner and geographer by technical background, Rachel has authored and co-authored several publications, most recently on driverless vehicles, shared mobility and future place-making. She is involved with strategic projects for clients across the public and private sectors, including leadership of a growing portfolio of future mobility projects in the UK and overseas.

Keynote speaker: Professor Richard Susskind OBE

Keynote speaker: Professor Richard Susskind OBE


Professor Richard Susskind OBE is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to major professional firms and national governments. For almost forty years, he has argued for the greater use of information technology in the professions. While his original focus was on the legal sector, he has worked with engineers since 1989.

He has written ten books, including the bestseller, The Future of the Professions (2015), and his work has been translated into 18 languages. He has been invited to speak in 60 countries.

He is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Internet Institute and is Technology Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He holds professorships at Oxford University, UCL, Gresham College, and the University of Strathclyde.

Hayley Jackson

Hayley Jackson

Site Engineer

Hayley graduated with a First-Class Honours Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nottingham in July 2018. During her time at university, she was an ICE Undergraduate QUEST Scholar, sponsored by Taylor Woodrow. She completed three summer placements on Victoria Dock Portal and Whitechapel Station, Crossrail and the M5 Junction 4a-6 Smart Motorway Upgrade.

After graduation, Hayley joined Taylor Woodrow (VINCI Construction) as an Assistant Engineer working on HS2 in Birmingham, Phase 1 North, as part of the Main Works Contractor in the Land Access team, and has since been promoted to Site Engineer working in Pre-Construction where Hayley is responsible for defining construction methodologies and planning for when works start on site. She has been actively involved in the ICE East Midlands Graduates and Students Committee, notably as Chair of the committee in 2018-19. Most recently, Hayley has been selected as one of the ICE President’s Future Leaders for 2019-20.

Event venue

United Kingdom

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ICE Events Team

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