To mark Women in Engineering Day, we sat down with Melanie, an Associate in our Transport Planning & Infrastructure Design team, to discuss what she loves most about the career.
How did you get into this career?
When I left school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I began hunting for jobs based on my interest in design and found a role in Civil Engineering for a transport consultancy. That was the first time I became aware of transport planning but I enjoyed it and never looked back!
In a nutshell, how would explain transport planning?
Transport is a contentious subject, but it is also an enjoyable one with a lot of problem solving. If a proposal meets objections, 9 times out of 10 the reason is highways. So there is a lot of work involved to change public perception and tackle their concerns. This usually involves educating on the benefits of a scheme, providing assurance that the transport implications have been fully assessed and justifying the design measures that are being put in to place to avoid potential issues such as congestion, safety or improving accessibility to non-car modes.
What do you enjoy most about the career?
I particularly like the variety of projects I get involved in and also the opportunity that many of the projects provide to improve an existing situation. When working on larger schemes there are normally a number of issues that need to be addressed such as improving accessibility, traffic congestion, safety issues etc. Your design can help to address these issues, whether they are existing or as a result of the development proposal, providing benefits to both existing and new residents.
I think we provide a lot of benefits to people, although they are not always aware of the work that we undertake.
How has the industry changed?
When I started back in the 1990s it was a predominately male environment and you didn’t come across many women at all, but over the last six or seven years I have seen a big increase in the number of women, particularly in the transport planning side. Engineering has seen a bit of a slower female uptake but on the whole there are definitely more women coming into the industry.
However, when I go to meetings I can still quite often be the only female in the room, so there’s definitely more to be done.
How can we encourage more women into the profession?
I think a lot of it sits in a lack of awareness of the career options available especially at school and in 6th forms (further education). Transport Planning covers a wide range of areas providing opportunities for a large number of people, but if young people don’t know about them then they are unlikely to take up the relevant subjects needed and go down the respective routes.
When I was at school we didn’t have much guidance on careers. If I had more awareness I could have geared my qualifications around it. I do think there is a lot more support these days, my son is around that age now and gets a lot more advice from school than we ever had, so that’s a really positive step. As an industry we should be working with schools to offer work experience placements for GCSE ages. This can give them a taster of the career before they come to make their subject choices at A Level. I also think we need a strong focus on apprenticeship opportunities in the industry, as well as those for graduates.