Article - Issue 8, May 2001

Putting the ‘gloss on the graduate’: Engineering Leadership Awards

David Ford

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Engineering Leadership Awards

Engineering Leadership Awards form part of The Academy’s Best programme which aims to attract, retain and develop outstanding young engineers. The awards are highly competitive and highly prized. Other schemes within the Best programme (funded by the Gatsby Charitable Trust) are the Engineering Education Scheme, Headstart (already featured in Ingenia), and the Year in Industry schemes.

Introduction

The Engineering Leadership Awards (ELA) are given only to the chosen few. Every year up to 300 undergraduates in the second year of a four-year MEng degree course apply and, after a stringent selection process including an interview board, a maximum of 30 awards are made. The award not only offers the undergraduate financial support for an agreed personal development plan over the final three years of the course – it also offers the opportunity to attend enrichment programmes organised by The Academy to ensure that, on graduation, the candidate has received every opportunity to make the best of his, or her, time at university.

Graduates who have successfully completed an Engineering Leadership Award will possess the engineering skills required to make a positive contribution to the success of the companies for which they will eventually work. In addition they will have a wider range of management skills and the broader vision necessary to progress on the ‘fast track’ within their companies. They will be equipped to become tomorrow’s leaders and excel in their personal performance in the workplace.

ELA in action

Rachael Jowett studied Engineering, Manufacturing and Management at UMIST, gaining a first class MEng degree. Rachael was one of the first group of undergraduates to receive an Engineering Leadership Award; her award ran from April 1996 to March 1999. Rachael is now registered on the Executive Engineers’ Programme which provides an extension to the ELA scheme for engineering graduates working towards Chartered Engineer status. She is currently Senior Buyer at ICI Paints in Slough. She describes her experience as follows:

It was a long and challenging process of elimination to receive The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Leadership Award but it proved a worthwhile experience. The award provided support not only in terms of funding but also in bringing me into contact with a valuable network of engineering professionals and other award holders.

After having completed my own Personal Development Plan, facilitated by The Academy at our first award holders’ annual event, it became apparent which ‘gaps’ needed filling. As a direct result of this, over the duration of my award I attended Assertiveness, Negotiation, Time Management and Project Management training organised by the Smallpiece Trust. These provided me with valuable skills to call upon in my forthcoming career with ICI Paints. This in turn allowed me to undertake more advanced training through ICI, as the ‘basics’ had been covered through the ELA.

In addition to these business courses, my award funded a residential German language course in Berlin to improve my existing knowledge of the language. I also undertook a Spanish language course in Salamanca to develop a third language. In my new role as Senior Buyer (Engineering and Technical Services) working in a European environment, it is becoming increasingly important to be fluent in these languages to carry out business more effectively.

Through the Engineering Leadership Award scheme, The Royal Academy of Engineering has supported me to develop myself more effectively, to provide me and ICI Paints with the confidence to undertake greater challenges that I might not have otherwise been set at this stage in my development.

Through the Executive Engineers’ Programme, The Academy provides me with the training, expertise and focus needed to develop myself continuously and never to accept the ‘status quo’. I am now applying for my Chartered Engineer status with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Next stop … Sainsbury Management Fellow!

Steve Jackson, General Manager at ICI Paints, gives ICI’s perspective:

Rachael joined ICI Paints in 1998. Since then she has undertaken roles as Commissioning Engineer, Production Line Manager and now as Senior Buyer, Engineering and Technical Services, within the European Supply Chain Group.

Throughout Rachael’s development at ICI, she has been supported by The Royal Academy of Engineering ELA scheme. This has given Rachael the confidence to maximise her contribution to the business. For ICI Paints, the scheme has allowed us to access additional resources and tap into the significant experience available through The Academy. Rachael’s successful contribution to the business to date has no doubt been enhanced by the fact she is an ELA holder, demonstrating the value of this programme.

Ralph Hall was in the second intake of undergraduates; his award ran from 1997 to 2000. Ralph studied Civil Engineering at Southampton University and obtained an MEng with first class Honours. Ralph writes:

I remember leaving a structures lecture at the University of Southampton in 1996 and having my eye caught by the words ‘Leadership Award’ on the Civil Engineering notice board. At that point I had little idea that this award would provide me with the opportunity to work in Venezuela for two months, study Spanish in Ecuador for six weeks, take part in two intensive leadership weekends on Dartmoor, put me in contact with the UK’s leading engineering companies and industrial leaders, send me on three leadership and innovation weekends at Cambridge University and finally result in my successful application to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Technology & Policy Program.

The ELA has enabled me to take my learning experiences to quite a different level and I believe its most important aspect has been its flexibility to meet the needs of the individual. During the first year as an award holder each student is asked to write a personal development plan outlining his or her hopes and aspirations for the future. This is referred to throughout the three-year period of the award whenever bursary applications are being considered. It was an exercise which not only helped to structure my career plans, but made me realise that The Royal Academy of Engineering was offering the support and guidance necessary for me to make something of my life. Now when I look back on this early personal statement it is clear that the award has enabled me to exceed all the objectives which I set out then and, importantly, to have a great deal of fun in the process.

In addition to having funds made available from The Academy, I was fortunate to have the full support of the Halcrow Group who sponsored me through university. I was able to integrate the Engineering Leadership Award money into my summer internships and this gave me the opportunity to work on the $200 million Barcelona Sewerage Rehabilitation project in Venezuela for two months during 1998.

Having obtained one award from The Royal Academy of Engineering I began to realise that there were many other opportunities available to young and determined engineers. It is my firm belief that what success I have achieved at work and in my studies can largely be attributed to the activities and events I have experienced as a member of The Academy’s Undergraduate Programme. It led, I am sure, to my receiving the 1998 Science, Engineering and Technology ‘Student of the Year’ Award for the Best Civil Engineering Student in the UK. I am confident that had I not received the support of The Royal Academy of Engineering I would not be in the privileged position I find myself in today. I am also very pleased to have so many friends among fellow award holders, who I’m sure will play leading roles in the UK’s industry and business sectors within the next ten years.

As can be seen from Ralph Hall’s account, his sponsoring company, Halcrow, was very supportive. Halcrow also derived benefit from Ralph’s development as an engineering leader and give their view as follows:

Halcrow is dedicated to being the leading independent infrastructure consultancy provider operating in the world market. In order to achieve this ambition, we are conscious of the need to develop talented individuals, young professionals like Ralph Hall, to the utmost. By supporting them, we not only give them the best chance of developing their own potential, but we also provide a means of stimulating others within our organisation. I believe that Ralph has been equally stimulated by the opportunities that both The Academy and Halcrow have been able to present to him and this was reflected in his contribution at Halcrow.

In conclusion

The Engineering Leadership Award scheme achieves its aims most successfully – both from the undergraduate’s point of view and from the point of view of the participating company. An involvement with this particular scheme is often seen by a company as a direct route to forming a professional relationship and the possible recruitment of a graduate of the very highest quality.

We are at a very exciting moment in the development of this aspect of The Academy’s activities. If there are any Fellows, or other readers of Ingenia, who would like more information on the Best programme or the individual schemes comprising it, please contact me directly and I will be pleased to meet with you. I will be able to provide a full briefing and perhaps interest the reader, the reader’s company, or even a colleague’s company, in joining with The Academy and participating in these schemes. Such initiatives are invaluable to the development of the next generation of the ‘Best’ engineering graduates.

The Academy provides me with the training, expertise and focus needed to develop myself continuously

The Royal Academy of Engineering was offering the support and guidance necessary for me to make something of my life

we are conscious of the need to develop talented individuals

David Ford

Best Promotions Manager, The Royal Academy of Engineering

David Ford is the Promotions Manager for the Best programmes. Email: fordd@raeng.co.uk

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