Leading figures from the UK infrastructure sector joined Amey Consulting in celebrating 100 years of Owen Williams – agreeing that the founder's values can inspire the next generation of engineers.
Founded as Williams Concrete Structures Ltd in 1919, Owen Williams was eventually acquired by Amey in 2006.
Hosted at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, the Future of Engineering event was opened by Andy Milner, Chief Executive of Amey before some personal words from Richard Williams, grandson of Sir Owen.
The event celebrated how Sir Owen Williams' personal curiosity, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovative thinking had underpinned iconic developments across the UK, such as Spaghetti Junction, and the early motorway system
Among the guests were:
• Blessing Danha, ICE Council member & KPMG
• Neil Rawlinson – MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) Director
• Sarah Scurlock – CEO and Founder of Primary Engineer – which has created an engineering curriculum that spans Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Further Education institutions.
The trio joined a panel discussion alongside John Faulkner, Group Strategy and Development Director; and Nicola Hindle, Managing Director, Consulting and Rail.
Compere Antony Oliver quizzed the panel on a range of topics, including how best to tackle the skills shortage in STEM subjects, encourage diversity, and promote engineering as a career to children.
After a lively discussion with several questions from the audience, the event drew to a close, leaving guests thinking about how they could apply the legacy of Owen Williams to engineering projects throughout the next 100 years.
Susan Scurlock said it is important that industry continues to promote engineering as a career to children and young people at the earliest possible stage.
"Generally, routes to engineering are geared around physics, and many kids make those subject choices when they are 12 – from that point, you cannot study it at A-level or beyond," she said:
"Kids are inspired by engineering. We see that when engineers go into schools and talk about their jobs and how they influence change. They just need to see more of it – engineering is not currently in the curriculum, which is a problem."
Blessing Danha added that there is an opportunity to attract more young people – because many are excited about sustainability. "People still want to do jobs that give them purpose; they want to give back to society. It's no longer just about profit," she said. "We need to be asking people whether they want to be part of the solution, not a problem."
John Faulkner added that the future of engineering looks bright, judging by the response to Amey's recent Graduate Conference. "Our graduates are full of ideas and enthusiasm and they are unafraid of bringing technologies together," he said.
In response to ongoing political uncertainty, John added: "The one constant across all parties right now is the need to invest in infrastructure. As an industry, we need to look at how we deliver that national requirement, using traditional methods as well as tech, and crucially by working with small suppliers and SMEs."
Nicola Hindle said that data would be 'the new oil' for engineering, and is playing an increasingly important role within projects. She said ‘as Britain’s post war infrastructure shows signs of ageing, data led asset management is becoming increasingly vital. The engineers of the present and of the future are not just from traditional engineering backgrounds but also from data science and mathematics’
A commemorative plaque was also presented to the Williams family on the evening by Chief Executive Andy Milner to mark the occasion.