In his Presidential Address, Keith Howells says that all members need to engage with the climate change issue.
The new president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has called on the silent "majority" of members to make their voices heard for the "greater good of the profession, industry, and of society".
"The truth is that only a small percentage of members are engaged … and the vast majority don’t participate,” said Keith Howells, the 158th President of the ICE.
Delivering the first in-person President’s Address at One Great George Street in London since 2019, the former chair of Mott MacDonald said:
"I’m convinced that we could do so much more and be so much better if we drew on the untapped potential of that majority."
Howells acknowledged that to better engage the majority of members, the benefits of being involved in ICE programmes need to be made clearer.
Benefits such as the "kudos" of developing guidance that can become industry standards or taking part in research studies that can influence government policy.
Listening as much as speaking
"Please step up," he said. "Let us use your expertise for the greater good of the profession, industry, and of society. And help us do what we do better."
To this end, Howells said that he intends to make sure that his presidential visits over the next year will be as much about listening as speaking to members.
"I look forward to hearing your views about the profession and wider industry, how you see the future, and what more the ICE can do to help you as members," he said.
Climate change – the defining issue of our age
Howells also outlined the theme for his presidential year, drawing on his decades of experience in the industry.
"I’ve worked in over 30 countries, in both the developing and developed world, and it’s been clear to me for many years that we can’t continue as we have been. It isn’t sustainable.
"There is little doubt that climate change is the defining issue of our age," he said.
Howells outlined the seven aims of the ICE for addressing the issue:
- To raise engineering standards: specifically, by conferring professional qualifications on our members.
- To put the decarbonisation of our industry at the heart of our agenda;
- To transform the productivity of our industry through modern methods of procurement and construction, including the widespread use of data and digital technology;
- To work with others to build resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change on our infrastructure;
- To transform the availability of water, sanitation and affordable clean energy, particularly in the global south;
- To develop a technology-focused mobility and transportation programme, to facilitate a reduction in the carbon intensity of transport;
- And, to work with others to enhance the knowledge, insight and ethical understanding of engineers.
The strategy "recognises that the institution can most effectively achieve its charitable aims by supporting delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)," he said.
Howells said: "This year, I want to drill down into how these aims interrelate and how we can build synergies between them to drive our ambition even harder."
"The first bullet is clearly at the heart of the ICE’s purpose," the president said, referring to the aim to raise engineering standards through professional qualifications.
"[We] will begin consulting the membership on making elements of CPD mandatory, particularly those involving public safety."
He added: "We need to take our responsibility to maintain competence throughout our careers seriously, and we need to support the institution as it seeks to raise standards."
Director general Nick Baveystock steps down
Howells ended his speech by thanking ICE’s director general, Nick Baveystock, who is leaving after 10 years in the role.
He recounted Baveystock’s achievements during that time, from reforming the ICE’s governance structure to steering the organisation through the Covid pandemic.
Securing the Chartered Infrastructure Engineer title was another.
Howells said: "It cannot be underestimated how vital this forward-looking move to qualify a wider set of the built-environment workforce will be in tackling the issues I’ve talked about today."
President's Future Leaders
Keith Howells has also unveiled the seven Future Leaders (pictured below) he has chosen to support him during his presidency.
Each ICE president chooses a group of the brightest graduate and technician members to work on projects that are integral to the ICE's Plan and have an effect on the industry.
This year's President's Future Leaders are:
- Lucy Davison, assistant engineer at SYSTRA
- Benjamin Delmond, graduate water civil engineer at Jacobs
- Rachel Hayden, field engineer at Bechtel
- Svetlana Joao, structural engineer at TYPSA
- Kyle McLean, civil engineer at Mott MacDonald
- Rohinee Pattani, assistant engineer at SNC Lavalin Atkins
- Blake Scott, assistant consultant at WSP