News & Views

Our Future in Our Hands!

It has been some two years since I first pitched the concept of an ‘Early Careers Group’ (ECG) to the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), yet since its formal launch, and first meeting back in December 2019, we have held six events, with presently over fifty people attending, representing almost all FPS member companies. The goal of the ECG was primarily to look at two main subject areas: to help and support emerging talent within the piling and geotechnical sector as they work their way up through their respective career ladders, and to involve the next generation in shaping the future for the Federation and the wider industry.

I think it is fair to say that the ECG has been well received, with members having shown interest in the wide range of FPS activities. We currently have ECG members now sitting on the FPS technical and sustainability committees, as well as also being active at the Federation’s main quarterly meetings. This engagement alone is testament to the Group’s success and the role it is playing in encouraging greater participation from those relatively new to the piling sector.

The group has also been recognised by its peers at The European Federation of Foundation Contractors (EFFC), winning praise as a great example of how allowing early careers talent to be encouraged to develop collaboratively can benefit our industry moving forward. In fact, the EFFC itself is now looking to develop its own approach to supporting and encouraging early career talent, with the same end-goal, to become involved in improving our industry.

Proof that the ECG is infectious as it is useful, a recent initiative has emerged from a working group within the ECG – it has produced a presentation for engaging new talent to enter the industry and Bath University’s Association of Civil Engineering Society will be the first organisation to receive this content. The plan going forward is to present more widely to different educational establishments, as it is not only important that we engage with potential talent but look to also address the ever-present and growing skill shortage the sector faces by attracting new talent into our industry and positioning the sector as attractive to enter!

Building on this, the ECG has volunteered to support the work of the Construction Youth Trust (CYT), which itself aims to help build a cross-industry partnership. It offers students a range of meaningful encounters with employers that widen their career horizons, whilst challenge stereotypes, championing STEM careers and support them to achieve their career ambitions. Working with the CYT, there is a plan to present several sessions promoting the industry as a potential career choice for high school students – engaging even earlier than the common undergraduate approach.

The past 12 months have been challenging, social distancing has meant that meetings have had to move to virtual platforms, but this has not impacted the enthusiasm and the participation of ever-growing numbers has ensured the group has not stalled through COVID-19. Of course, once social distancing measures allow, the group will once again return to face-to-face meetings, as there is no real substitute when it comes to the free exchange of ideas and opinions. One of the first meetings planned is for the ECG to enjoy a unique opportunity to understand the plant and tooling at the Bauer Equipment facility in the UK, an event which is aimed at increasing ECG members’ understanding of the equipment used to undertake our projects. Further interactive events on leadership and rotary bored piling are to be organised too, as COVID-19 has shown us that there is an equal place for on-line engagement, especially as the ECG grows and its associated spread geographically. We have future talks planned on a variety of current topics such as diversity, sustainability, and the design process.

As with any Group, over the next 6 months the chair of the ECG will be handed over to a new person. This was always the plan to ensure the group is structured as with all other FPS groups and its committees, but also to ensure the ECG Group itself evolves with a fresh injection of ideas, views, and opinions.

As the out-going ECG Chair, I look back on the last two-years fondly and am proud of how the group has grown already and developed from that initial concept to now being firmly established as a platform for talent to be developed. I would like also to personally thank all at the FPS who have supported the group and I am sure it will continue to make its mark as a vehicle to help those new to the industry, looking to enter the industry, or even on the hunt for a rewarding career path. The ECG and the people it also inspires will after all be the generation that builds our future foundations!

Author: David Major, FPS Early Careers Group Lead