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ICE Community blog

Nothing beats the feeling of changing the skyline of my home city

29 May 2019

Following the Greater Manchester Skills Summit 2019 this month, we hear from ICE graduate member Vakass Khaliq about his discovery of civil engineering and why he’s on a personal mission to attract the civil engineers of the future to Manchester.

Nothing beats the feeling of changing the skyline of my home city
Vakass Khaliq

I’m proud to have grown up, studied and stayed in Manchester to pursue my career in civil engineering.

I believe it’s so important to have these discussions about skills challenges, especially because when I was a young child at school in Oldham, the only jobs I really knew about were policeman, fireman or pilot.

I had no idea that a few years down the line, I would be helping to transform the place I’ve called home all my life.

Civil engineering wasn’t even my first choice

I didn’t even think about engineering as a career option until just before embarking on higher education at The University of Manchester.

I completed a foundation year and had originally decided to do mechanical engineering before discovering civil engineering and the fascinating opportunity to shape the world around me. This was so appealing to me.

I’ve been a graduate member of ICE for almost three years. This time has flown by, but when I reflect back, I can see how much I’ve grown in my role thanks to the supportive environment at Curtins (and a lot of hard work!)

I’ve learned a great deal from being thrown in at the deep end but within a supportive culture where learning from mistakes is encouraged.

In December, I was promoted to a structural engineer and I’m relishing the additional responsibility and the opportunity to support fresh graduates joining the company.

We’re the next generation of engineers who’ll be part of a huge shift in the face of engineering thanks in part to massive technological advancements.

The importance of being a STEM ambassador

This is why I love being a STEM ambassador, inspiring young people to think about how the buildings and infrastructure they experience around them actually came to exist.

And more often than not, the schoolchildren I visit will surprise me with their creativity and innovation. It’s amazing what a group of 10-year-olds can do with Jenga blocks!

In my view, the best way to encourage young people into civil engineering is to engage with them on a level that will allow them to have fun while allowing their creative minds to grow.

Depending on the age range, this can be done through various activities; from K’Nex/Lego construction challenges and mobile app games for a really young audience (primary education) to presenting real-life challenges to an older audience (secondary/higher education) to allow them to understand the job of a civil engineer.

One activity I've used in schools and at engineering/science fairs is a the Jenga block tower challenge where children will compete one-to-one to build the tallest tower out of Jenga blocks in two minutes.

It’s very simple, but it’s a great way to get them thinking. It’s amazing to see what ideas /solutions the children come up with, they really do surprise you at times. Most importantly they have fun and enjoy the competition!

My contribution to Manchester

I was recently asked if I could pick out a career highlight or a project I’m particularly proud of.

It’s a tough question to answer, but at the moment, nothing beats going past the Circle Square development on Oxford Road in Manchester on the bus as I commute to work.

Every day, I get to see buildings I’ve helped to design become a reality. I’ve actually contributed to changing Manchester’s skyline, creating something for future generations.

Being able to point these buildings out to family and friends and say “I did that!” is hugely rewarding after the hard work and effort that I’ve dedicated to my work on them.

I love designing buildings. And I know there are so many other young kids in schools today who’d feel the same.

My personal mission is to reach as many of them as possible and to continue developing in my career to help Manchester and the people who live and work here achieve our full potential.

What can members do to attract more young people into the industry?

Engineers are problems solvers. We enjoy working things out and getting things done. We don’t always have the time to tell others about our achievements but taking the time to do this reaps benefits.

Even if you speak to friends and family, it helps spread the word. But there are so many other opportunities, too, like taking part in careers events, doing a STEM activity for a local group or even writing a member blog!

  • Vakass Khaliq, Structural Engineer at Curtins at Curtins