TfL Graduate Awards 2016

For 19 years, the annual Transport for London (TfL) Graduate Awards have celebrated the hard work of engineers during their time on the graduate programme. For the fifth year running, proud sponsors Matchtech hosted this year’s event.

Grahame Carter, Head of Infrastructure at Matchtech said: “There is always a great atmosphere at the awards and the graduate engineers never fail to impress with the achievements they have made in some of the highest profile projects in the UK rail industry.”

To encourage the development of excellence, all graduates are invited to submit an entry of work to the eight judges. This year there were 30 submissions, which were shortlisted to eight and the final three winners.

Find out more about the winners and their impressive submissions here.

Following the awards, we spoke to Martin Roach, Lead Engineer and organiser of the event, Rand Watkins, Lead Project Engineer at TfL and Lucinda Smith, Membership Development Officer at Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), to find out their views on what it’s like to work at TfL, the main challenges facing young people today in the industry and how we can encourage more women into engineering.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges that face young people entering the engineering industry today?

Lucinda Smith: First of all it’s acquiring the correct education; they need to have a basis in maths and science. I think it’s a challenge to get good advice at the right time so that they don’t drop the subjects they want to have later.

To become a Chartered Engineer you need a Masters degree in engineering which is a challenging degree to get. Then you need to find a job but it is a fantastic industry because it’s so broad – you can work for clients, do design or construction. You just need to find your niche and what’s interesting to you.

Rand Watkins: I think it’s different for young people today from when I was younger. Paying for a degree isn’t possible for everyone, so young aspiring engineers need to know there are alternative routes to attain formal engineering qualifications. We have career appraisal routes or apprenticeships and there’s different ways to get into engineering and I think if that’s possibly what is stopping them.

There are clearly many talented graduates at TfL. With fewer engineering graduates coming into the market, candidate attraction is increasingly important. What do you feel makes TfL stand out as a graduate employer?

Martin Roach: I think our project portfolio is very attractive. I take part in the University careers fair every year and we’re always getting interest from universities as to the big projects we’re doing in London.

The salary is competitive and there are some benefits like free travel for the whole network. Another benefit which they probably don’t realise the full value of when they join us is that we still operate a final salary pension scheme, which is very rare for organisations to offer that from the outset and so it’s something we still offer to graduates.

Rand Watkins: We have some really senior people who give up their time to help mentor and train young people. And also just like tonight’s function, the graduates can help to create a unit amongst themselves. There is a great camaraderie where they mingle and it’s nice to have the opportunity to have a social network as well as having the placement. They get great exposure across the whole business so it’s up to them to make the most of it.

Given that the number of 18 year olds overall is due to drop by around 10% in 2022 and the number of engineering workers required in that period is set to increase, encouraging women into the STEM sector is vital to fulfilling business needs. What do you feel is the best way to attract more women into engineering?

Lucinda Smith: This is an area which I think quite a lot about as a female engineer myself. I do think that schools need to be open to having engineers coming in to talk. If girls could understand the range of opportunities for women in engineering, it would be more attractive to them.

But I also think that good advice is really important. I know girls that gave up physics when they were sixteen and didn’t realise that would limit their options. It’s no good talking to young girls when they’re 17 who have chosen their subject areas already.

Martin Roach: I think the answer is to inspire them when they’re still young. A lot of STEM schools promotion in recent years is aimed at those who have already made their GCSE choices when it’s really too late. Increasingly now I know the Institution of Civil Engineers and other employers are starting to aim for a younger audience within Transport for London and there’s a section within the London Transport Museum that organises ambassador visits to schools. We have seen a gradual increase year on year with women engineers both at graduate level and manager level and we’re encouraging our female graduates to get into the schools to show that women have rewarding careers in engineering.

Rand Watkins: The important way of attracting people is to show how it can be flexible and there are more diverse ways of working. I work full-time but compress my hours to fit around my family commitments. It hasn’t stopped me progressing in my career. TfL is great at that and I think other industries are getting it too.

In your opinion, what are the three key factors that make TfL a great place to work?

Lucinda Smith: TfL provides a service that is crucial to London and it’s really fantastic to work for something you know matters. There are all kinds of roles that are interesting, so you can find one that suits you. There is also scope to move around if you’re someone that doesn’t want to do the same thing forever.

Martin Roach: I’ve been with the company in its various guises for 37 years. This is testimony to the fact they must be doing something right! Every project is different and I have worked on 50+ projects, which have each had their different challenges.

London is a buzzing city and outside of work there’s always something going on. I think as well, we’ve integrated a lot of our training schemes that TfL runs. We run around 24 different schemes and all of the graduates are introducing themselves into an active social network and so they arrange nights and it can help them with finding accommodation as well.

Rand Watkins: It’s the contribution to London life. You feel that you’re making a contribution to a city to keep people moving and I think that’s fantastic. Also, I think their approach to flexibility, diversity and offering an equal opportunity for anyone to succeed in business makes them a great employer.

If you’re interested in a career with TfL, view our available jobs here.

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