By Jonathan Smith

At the start of November 2016, I embarked on a one-year journey as an apprentice for the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Four months on, I have been reflecting on my experiences so far and would like to share my four biggest highlights to date.

The Presidential Address

Tim Broyd, this year’s ICE President, began his tenure with his Presidential Address at One Great George Street on 1st November. Before the address, I met Tim (along with the other seven apprentices for this year) and some of the apprentice alumni. I was immediately struck by the high calibre of people I get the chance to work with. This year’s group includes the first two international apprentices (based in Dubai and Malaysia) and, between the eight of us, we cover a broad range of civil engineering disciplines including ‘digital engineering’. Read more about all the apprentices here .

Tim’s speech touched on a wide range of topics, including diversifying the civil engineering profession, his aims to ensure the ICE continues to inform and make a real difference to society, and the need to embrace and develop the new ‘digital age’ of engineering. Watch his speech here.

Regional Visit to Scotland

At the end of November, I accompanied Tim on his first regional visit of the year, to the West of Scotland. During this four-day tour, we attended a whole range of events, including:

  • Scotland Build Expo in Glasgow
  • A site visit to the Raith Junction Improvement Works
  • The SCDI Influencers Dinner in Stirling
  • Meetings at the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde to discuss the use of ‘big data’ in civil engineering
  • TheICE Glasgow West of Scotland Branch Dinner and the branch’s graduate and student formal lunch, attended by 250+ young engineers

I was continually amazed and encouraged by the enthusiasm of everyone we met – not just for the work they do, but the difference our profession and the ICE can make to people and society. My thoughts were also captured in a brief article in New Civil Engineers.

Treasury Select Committee

In December, I was invited, along with fellow apprentice Abby Fryett, to accompany Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, and Andrew Wescott, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the ICE, to a Treasury Select Committee meeting. This was to explore the Government’s infrastructure spending commitments, as outlined in the Autumn Statement.

As well as being given an insight into the workings of Westminster, I was very conscious of the need for engineers to inform political discussion. As a profession, we have such a responsibility to provide evidence-based information, rather than political intention, to inform political debate and help improve society. As I get further from university education and more involved in projects that directly change people’s lives, it is something I am becoming increasingly aware of.

Read more about the committee hearing here or watch the whole proceedings here .

Northern Powerhouse Panel

One of the main things I was looking forward to most when I joined the apprenticeship scheme was being involved in an ICE project and contributing to the Institution. I have been lucky enough to get the chance to work within the policy team at the ICE, and am now a member of their Northern Powerhouse Panel, which is currently working on the Northern Infrastructure Strategy report due to be published in Summer 2017.

Politics is something I have also been interested in but never studied in any detail, and the opportunity to gain an insight into how engineers can inform the political debate is really exciting. I have been tasked with helping write the housing chapter for the strategy report and am thrilled to be able to contribute to, and learn so much from, people at the very top of the industry. Watch this space for more about the strategy report and my experiences of being on the panel. If you have any questions or helpful advice for me as I get involved in the ‘Policy’ side of engineering, I would love to hear from you.

I hope this gives you a sense of the many opportunities I have had so far as an ICE President’s Apprentice. I have learned so much in the last four months, including how to chronicle my exploits on Twitter (@JonathanChaseSmith0), and I can’t wait to learn so much more in the coming months.

Keep an eye out for more blogs from Jonathan about his experience throughout the year.

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Jonathan Smith, Volunteering, Working at Cundall


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