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UCL Institute of Making

An engineering feat with a difference – inspiring Gen Z into our world

Atkins held a workshop at the Institute of Making in University College London to explore the challenges we are facing in attracting our next generation of colleagues

Atkins recently partnered with the Institute of Making at University College London (UCL), to hold a workshop aimed at understanding how to inspire young people to consider careers in engineering. We also wanted to explore how to demystify engineering as a discipline and think of new ways of encouraging young people into studying STEM subjects.

The day marked a fresh approach to Atkins’ attraction strategy: engaging with students who haven’t considered a career in engineering and asking them to help us think about how to adapt our messaging to school-age students. Whilst we compete successfully at bringing in top engineering talent to Atkins, our industry needs to attract more young people into engineering. Understanding the aspirations and attitudes of Generation Z (those born after the mid-1990s) to work, life and the built environment, will help us develop appropriate attraction strategies and career options. 

Joining Group HR director James Cullens and the UCL students, were our recruiters, graduates, apprentices and subject matter experts from Atkins who presented on topics such as intelligent mobility, the built environment and cities of the future. Our delegates explored some of the key questions facing our sector and the Generation Z-ers growing up in this world: how will the infrastructure of cities change? Which materials are best to promote sustainability? Will population growth affect the quality or quantity of buildings required?

Philip Watson, design director/architect, shared his optimism for the future: “this is a fascinating time… I think more than ever designers and engineers are going to be relied upon to help solve some of these mega challenges.”

Lee Woodcock, global product director for intelligent mobility, added: “urbanisation and climate change are creating a massive demand on already constrained networks. If young people can develop solutions and services to overcome those then that’d actually make the world a better place to live. They could make a difference, leave a legacy.”

A recurring theme throughout the day was the awareness that prospective employees’ needs are changing: young people don’t want or need the same things that Baby Boomers or Generation X did. Instead they think more about the impact they’ll have on the environment and expect their employers to be socially responsible. They also want to work for an organisation that has a strong social purpose. One participant summed this up by saying that he hoped he’d look back on his career and be able to say “I made that difference.”

From Atkins’ perspective we need a diversity of colleagues in our business in the future, ranging from designers to artists, from writers to mathematicians and engineers. James Cullens concluded: “today is a day to explore the challenges that Millennials are facing in the future and to think about how we can inspire them to become engineers and join Atkins. The workshop has given us plenty of food for thought on how to appeal to young people and their key influencers to think about engineering and related disciplines.”

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