Where would we be without the unsung engineering heroes?

In honour of STEM Day, we salute all the specialist professionals having a huge impact on the many corners of engineering.

The STEM environment is full of bright minds, working tirelessly or innovating behind the scenes to support our society. Across construction, manufacturing and energy, engineering specialists support people’s daily lives and keep the UK moving forwards towards a more sustainable future.  

On STEM Day, we celebrate these heroes of the industry and the difference they make to society. With engineering accounting for around 18% of the UK working population, these professionals play a pivotal role. Labour force numbers across the industry stood at around 6.9 million in 2021 – with a large proportion working in construction and manufacturing related jobs, in everything from mechanical and electrical design through to controls and automation. And so many tend to go unsung.

Mhari-Claire Doolan, Business Manager for Progressive, says: “With engineering, it’s mind blowing the work that goes on behind the scenes and these people are such an important part of our future.”   

The engineering community is heavily involved in initiatives and projects to achieve net zero objectives. And with the ongoing energy and cost of living crisis, their work is ever more important.  

For Doolan, around 90% of her engineering contractors are involved in producing energy in some way. This includes manufacturing professionals working in supply chains, making critical components for energy projects, and construction specialists building offshore wind platforms or new nuclear power stations. 

Progressive currently has more than 100 contractors working on the construction of Hinkley Point C – the UK’s first nuclear power station in more than 20 years. The Somerset site, led by EDF Energy, is due to provide low-carbon electricity for around six million homes – powering 7% of the UK’s electricity. It will be the first in a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK, which are part of a “nuclear renaissance” to support the environment, says EDF. “Once these power stations are up and running, it will have a huge impact on the amount of energy produced and that should drive down energy prices,” notes Doolan.   

The UK energy industry invests £13bn annually and supports more than 700,000 jobs. And it plans to invest £100bn over the course of this decade in new energy sources. 

“Working with candidates at the cutting edge of the energy markets is really rewarding,” adds John Cullen, Senior Business Manager at SThree. “These are the people who will support the UK in transitioning away from fossil fuels and also make us use the energy we generate more efficiently.

“It is these types of innovative professionals who will help the UK tackle any issues in future energy supply. Whether it be new battery storage projects, renewable energy or hydrogen fuels, the future of our energy sources and consumption will look very different from what it does today – in a positive way.”  

As well as contributing to the energy crisis in a positive way, it’s important to highlight the role many engineering specialists play in keeping people safe, notes Doolan. This includes the project leaders and site managers in charge of engineering projects through to those working in QHSE, such as quality, safety, reliability and environmental specialists. “Their job is to make sure these construction sites or power stations are all set up in a really robust, safe way,” she says.  

The industry looks set to play another crucial role in keeping people safe, following calls for better infection resilience in the UK. A report by the National Engineering Policy Centre recommends that indoor environments are made healthier so the UK can better cope with any future pandemics and seasonal disease outbreaks. This will affect the future design, construction and management of buildings and public transport systems, which so many engineering specialists have a hand in.  

While the industry still has some way to go on improving diversity and inclusion and attracting sufficient STEM talent to combat the shortage of skills, forward-thinking companies are working hard to inspire the next generation of people into engineering roles, says Doolan. “A lot of our customers are being more forward-thinking. They all have apprentices or take people from HNC or HND (Higher National Certificates/Higher National Diplomas) qualification levels and some of them will partner with schools to get more young people choosing it as a career path.” 

Industry bodies are also collaborating to ensure the UK has the engineering heroes of tomorrow. Initiatives include This is Engineering, a multi-year campaign led by the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with EngineeringUK and major engineering organisations to encourage more young people to consider engineering careers. 

Whether you’re looking for a role with a positive impact on society or need more support on your engineering projects, contact us today!

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