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ICE President Rachel Skinner makes virtual visit to Scotland

06 January 2021

“What are YOU going to do?” was the key question posed by ICE President, Rachel Skinner to members and stakeholders as she – virtually - visited Scotland recently.

ICE President Rachel Skinner makes virtual visit to Scotland

There were three sessions on the visit – the first on net zero carbon, the theme of Rachel’s presidency and recent film Shaping Zero, launched at Rachel’s Inauguration.

Explaining the reasoning behind the film, Rachel said the issue of carbon must be made ‘mainstream’ within civil engineering. With 70% of global carbon emissions related to infrastructure, it is a huge opportunity but is also an area where it would be unethical for our sectors, she said, not to address this harm. Encouragingly however, she opened her Scotland visit by reminding attendees, ‘if you give civil engineers a problem, they are very good at fixing it’.

Lindsay McQuade, CEO at ScottishPower Renewables, agreed there was no choice other than to continue to make progress - it was time ‘to seize the day’.

Collaboration is key

As well as the need for urgent action, there was also an emphasis on collaboration.

Professor Sandy Halliday talked of how without collaboration ‘A class thinking’ often led to ‘C class’ outcomes. Neil Kermode, ICE Fellow and Managing Director of the European Marine Energy Centre said: “Innovation breeds innovation. Sharing our experiences will help solve the problems.”

Mari Tunby, deputy director of CBI Scotland, recognised the Scottish and UK expertise on climate change, but cautioned that ‘we need to ensure policy is aligned and we work together’.

Mark Dickson, Director of Capital Investment, Scottish Water, summed up the overwhelming consensus of the morning when he quoted Elvis Pressley: “Time for a little less conversation, a little more action.”

Diversity and inclusion

That quote was also the mantra from the next session – Diversity and Inclusion in Civil Engineering. Chaired by Emma Dickson, ICE Scotland’s own chair, the event started with Rachel talking about her own journey and professional development, stressing the need for building networks.

Lesley Laird from Equate Scotland presented on ‘Equality, Inclusivity & Diversity. From Ticking the Box to Moving the Dial’ featuring several powerful statistics and quotes from a recent survey – including that 60% of women in STEM across Scotland reported sexism in their workplace or place of education. Encouraging us all to act, Lesley said “You must always ask yourself – if not you, then who?”

Faye Jenkins, Social Impact and Inclusion Manager with BAM Nuttall, then gave practical examples of her organisation’s approach to diversity and inclusion, including the emphasis placed on supporting STEM learning for girls.
Faye said communication was vital to ensure diverse views were always being sought and she postulated on the value of target-setting, “Whether we like it or not, diversity is a numbers game too.”

'Ask the President'

The final session was an opportunity for Graduate and Student Members to ‘Ask the President’, led by ICE Scotland’s G&S chair, Ryan Doolan. Net-zero carbon dominated the questions, including how graduates could influence their organisation and clients.

“Get to grip with the carbon basics first,” said Rachel. “If you hear a word or concept and don't know what it means – take the time to find out.” In terms of influencing clients, Rachel said it was the perfect time. “There is a public expectation that we change things, now matched by political will.”

On the theme of engaging the public about civil engineering and infrastructure as a whole Rachel told attendees that “We need to be more visible and relevant. We can't just talk to ourselves. We need to explain ourselves better."

ICE Scotland Director, Hannah Smith, said: “These events were a great opportunity for well over 300 of our members to engage directly with our President. We have all left these conversations with renewed vigour to tackle challenges from diversity to decarbonisation.”

Read Rachel's blog on the feedback from her inaugural address and achieving net-zero here.

*The Climate Change Breakfast and Diversity and Inclusion in Civil Engineering events will be made available on the ICE website.

  • Gordon Brown, communications lead at ICE