News & Views

The Case for Structured Mentoring

There is a lot of emerging talent within the piling and geotechnical sector and of this talent pool, many are destined to achieve senior positions with management and leadership responsibilities. Whilst the technical and academic abilities of these early career professionals are without question, it has long been the thoughts of many within the membership of the Federation of Piling Specialist (FPS) that more could or should be done to help support them as they work their way up their respective career ladders.

At the same time the, FPS wants to widen its influence and help attract new talent into the industry and a first step in this process is to engage more with the emerging talent we have, considering and acting upon their ideas, views and opinions. The FPS sees this as being ever more important as the world we live in and the industry we work in continues to change at a rapid pace.

Against this backdrop, the FPS has looked at the many areas that would help support those that have the potential for holding future senior or leadership roles and specifically at ways of providing them with a form of organised mentoring. The piling and geotechnical sector holds many subject areas, both technical and managerial, which those embarking on their careers would find useful if expanded upon or discussed through the words of those that have gone before them. Often it is the real-world perspective of these subjects and topics, delivered in the context of actual day-to-day working, that imparts knowledge far better than any textbook approach. My own experience of career progression and my personal future and development highlighted the need for more support of early career professionals. It also highlighted just how the most illuminating learning experiences I have had came from simply listening to the experiences of, or questioning of, a senior figure about their experiences and development.
The FPS’s first step was to establish an Early Career Group, to look at the subject areas that could be tackled. Having examined my own needs through my career path topics suggested included:

• Client relationship management
• Managing a team and a business unit
• Dealing with difficult situations
• Additional learning opportunities and activities considered effective and interesting which have helped progress a career
• Business planning and structuring growth within a business
• Assessing risk and decision making within a project & business basis
• Effective communication
• Stress management

The collective and vast experiences of FPS membership will allow each topic to be presented by someone who not only understands the topic but has the passion to convey them in the context of business and working within the geotechnical sector.

For the remainder of 2019 and through 2020, the FPS has established a programme of seminars, aimed at professionals at the early stages of their career from within the FPS membership. The seminars will be held regionally to facilitate attendance and will tackle each of the topic areas suggested and be presented by senior FPS figures. These seminars will be two-way events with open discussion encouraged so that the FPS can take account of the up and coming generation.

Its early days, but feedback from these first series of seminars will help shape the future of the entire programme, which will evolve subject wise as demand dictates. It is envisaged also that as interest grows the Early Career Group could be split into regional divisions, to allow access to a greater number of attendees, with regional divisions ultimately coming together at certain points, to discuss and feedback requests and to ensure that the group is unified nationally.

It is also the plan that the Group will support the FPS liaising with universities and schools, to encourage the next generation of people into ground engineering.

The piling and wider construction sector are increasingly challenging and those new to the industry need more than just academic qualifications to succeed. It is a duty to all those presently occupying senior positions in the sector, to ensure their successors are in the best possible position, knowledge wise, to rise to any future challenges by learning from those who have “been there and done that”. This initiative will also give the emerging talent the opportunity to help shape the future of the FPS and the industry we work in.

By David Major, senior estimator Expanded Geotechnical and FPS Member