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    Supporting the Geotechnical Engineers of the Future

    Mon 08/22/2016 - 17:18

    As a responsible employer with a true passion for the industries in which it operates, SOCOTEC has a long and proud history of supporting and encouraging new talent. 

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    Just one example of this is our recent sponsorship of the SOCOTEC, formerly ESG, Geotechnics and Geomechanics Prize at Brunel University. To give aspiring geotechnical engineers an insight into how we can help them to reach their career goals, we caught up with Pete Reading, geotechnical consultant, SOCOTEC, after he presented this year’s Prize at Brunel.

    Can you tell us why SOCOTEC decided to sponsor the Geotechnics and Geomechanics prize at Brunel University?

    As a company that is proud of our heritage and expertise in geotechnical engineering, we have often considered how best to support today’s leading engineering students in developing their geotechnical careers of the future.

    During my decade as director of the business, I built up a huge respect for my colleagues and the expertise that they provided, as well as a pride in the technical papers and presentations that we delivered. I am now committed to supporting the next generation of talent.

    Our group technical director is a huge advocate for encouraging future generations through their geotechnical development, to help reduce the skills gap in our industry, and is particularly supportive of graduate geotechnical engineers. In fact, it was at his insistence that we sponsored a prize, not only for a student undertaking geotechnical engineering as part of their studies, but one that particularly demonstrated initiative in managing a project, so that the criteria could be more aligned with what geotechnical engineers could expect in the work place.

    Of course, Brunel University was the natural choice to partner with. The University’s approach is to combine academic rigour with the practical, entrepreneurial and imaginative approach pioneered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. We too value both academic learning and progression in the workplace. Further to this, Brunel University is one of the leading advocates for geotechnical and engineering study in the UK. Sadly, we are seeing numbers decline in geotechnical engineering study in this country. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, while there were 2,266,075 students studying in 2014/15, only 161,440 were studying engineering and technology related subjects. So it might be surprising to hear that the Telegraph claims that engineers are some of the most in-demand workers in the UK. The Government goes further still and specifically includes geotechnical engineer on its UK shortage occupation list. But can industry be doing more to bridge this gap? We believe so and our sponsorship of the Geotechnical and Geomechanics Prize at Brunel University is just the beginning…

    Why did you volunteer to present this prize yourself?

    I’m passionate about linking academia and the workplace, so presenting this prize on behalf of SOCOTEC was rewarding. This company is steeped in history and some of our methodologies have been renowned throughout the world. We want to continue the tradition of technical expertise by employing and investing in the right people coming through. In order to build a sustainable organisation, we need great people with strong expertise continually joining the business. But, this is not enough in itself; we also have to commit to nurturing aspiring young geotechnical engineers and that should start as early as their degrees.

    I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people during my career and I would feel proud to say that I’ve invested in the next Ken Fleming, Rory Mortimore, Rudolph ‘Silas’ Glossop, or Professor Bromhead, influential, world renowned experts. For me, this is what sponsoring prizes to encourage young geotechnical engineers is all about. Of course, it also protects our expertise and therefore our brand for the future, by developing and supporting talent at University level.

    Well, don’t keep us in suspense…who won this year’s Geotechnics and Geomechanics Prize and what made their entry stand out?

    The winner of this year’s prize was Anthony Thorpe, a hugely talented MEng student. Along with his contemporaries, Anthony carried out a project in his fourth year of study as part of the overall attainment of his Masters Degree. While all students fulfilled the requirements, Anthony’s project was quite outstanding.

    Through his project Anthony clearly demonstrated innovation, attention to technical detail and a personal commitment to furthering his geotechnical experience and knowledge; all key attributes that we would like to see in future geotechnical colleagues here at SOCOTEC. The report that he produced was very well constructed, ordered and certainly furthered his knowledge. We wish Anthony all the best for his future career and hope that our paths will cross again in due course.

    So, what’s the future for the partnership between Brunel University and SOCOTEC?

    I’m glad you asked. SOCOTEC, formerly ESG, already has a successful relationship with Brunel University, which can be demonstrated in the development of Protex!, an innovative water disinfection device. Our inaugural sponsorship of the Geotechnics and Geomechanics Prize has been so successful, that we are looking to extend our partnership with Brunel University further. As two organisations that value progression, innovation, and continued learning, we believe that we can forge ties for the longer term.

    The first of our plans is to name the geotechnical laboratory at Brunel University ‘The ESG Laboratory’. Demonstrating our commitment to this, we will be asking members of the team to guest lecture at Brunel to share their experience of the workplace with the students. We enjoy what we do, it’s varied, technical, interesting and takes a lot of problem solving. It’s an unusual trade, requiring a diverse skillset; from understanding ecology to technical analysis. But, it is not everyone’s idea of a glamorous career, as some projects can have us on muddy sites from as early as 5am!

    Going forward, I would hope that SOCOTEC and Brunel University can use their shared drive for progression in geotechnical engineering to benefit the students, the University and even SOCOTEC, if we can continue to work with such talent, the prize is just the first step in this process…

    How can SOCOTEC support geotechnical engineers of the future? Contact us

    Let us know if you have any ideas on how we can help to support the geotechnical engineers of the future.

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