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How civil engineering changed my life after a chance encounter at a careers fair

26 June 2019

This year’s Big Bang Fair is welcoming 8,500 children to Liverpool and Joanna Bateman, ICE North West Education Rep and Graduate Highways Engineer at WSP, will be there to ‘wow’ as many young people as humanly possible.

How civil engineering changed my life after a chance encounter at a careers fair

Most of us can think of a moment in our lives that was life-changing.

Mine was as a teenager, meeting an engineer at a careers fair who explained her job to me in a way which completely changed my outlook on the world.

She told me how the world is built by civil engineers and that people, like her, are needed to do everything from building roads and bridges, hospitals and airports to providing clean water supplies.

That was my ‘wow’ moment that led me down the fantastic career path I'm on today. It’s also the moment that I’m passionate about recreating for other young people.

I had no idea that this short conversation would be so significant, taking me from not really knowing what to do next, to giving me clear direction which ultimately led me to study engineering.

Not just for men

At university, I was one of a handful of girls in a room full of more than 100 boys. At times it was daunting but, as I progressed, so did my enthusiasm and passion for civil engineering.

I gained a master's degree before securing my first job within the highways division working in the traffic signal team.

My own experiences are exactly what's propelled me to become a STEM ambassador and ICE North West Education volunteer rep.

I want to make sure the next generation of potential engineers are aware of the opportunities they have to make a lasting impact and shape the world around us.

There's a lot of fabulous work going on across the industry demonstrating the range of career options on offer, but it’s so important to stress that this career is as much for women as men.

There's no denying that it's an ongoing struggle. In the UK, we have less than 10% of female engineering professionals, which is the lowest in Europe.

I'm a civil engineer, but I'm also ... a songwriter

In my opinion, making people laugh and bringing out the fun can open up civil engineering to new audiences and plant an idea in someone’s mind.

I’ve written several songs which initially started out as a way to help my revision, including You Drain Me (featuring lots of drainage terminology), Layby Me, Loving in the Intergreens and even Mary had a JCB.

From study aids, the songs then became a way to convey engineering terminology to a non-technical audience, by linking engineering terms to emotions and relationships. Then, when I became a mum, I added in engineering nursery rhymes too, which just seemed like the natural thing to do.

I truly believe we all have something to offer that could spark that ‘wow’ moment for someone.

Clearly, not everyone will want to pen an engineering song, but there are so many ways to get involved and make a difference - speaking to pupils in school assemblies, supporting young people with CVs, coming up with ideas for educational workshops and generally helping to spread the word.

This week, I will be part of the ICE North West team at Big Bang, which is being held in my hometown of Liverpool.

Events like this provide a stage for a huge array of STEM activities, including engineering. It’s a fabulous chance to capture the imaginations of young people, using hands-on activities to help showcase what civil engineering is all about. I personally like to make sure it’s as fun and engaging as possible, breaking down the stereotypical view of a civil engineer.

As ICE members and engineers already working within the profession, we're all potential role models and ambassadors.

If all our members committed to just one engagement event each, the impact would be phenomena.

And you might be pleasantly surprised by how much you get out of it, too.

Could you help inspire young people to take up civil engineering?

Get involved with ICE’s education and inspiration work.