For me, being an engineer is about putting science to work for the benefit of society. Being chosen as one of the Make it in Great Britain '30 Under 30' gives me the opportunity to describe what a career in manufacturing is really about. If you want to make society better, you should consider a career in manufacturing as one of the most rewarding ways to do it.
When people think of 'manufacturing', it conjures mental images of the 'dark satanic mills' of Victorian times. Since I began my career as a civil and structural engineer, my main aims have been to improve lives and to provide people with the infrastructure that they need to live free from the kind of pollution and poverty endured in that era.
I have had the opportunity to work on developing renewable energy technology that can be discreetly retrofitted into existing and historic buildings, designing low-cost earthquake-resistant housing for remote mountainous regions of Peru, improving technologies to facilitate access to water in the slums of East Africa, and have published papers on increasing the reliability and cost-effectiveness of structures involved in micro-hydroelectric power systems. I have also contributed to large transport infrastructure projects - building and maintaining the bridges, railways, roads and airports that keep Britain, and the world, moving.
These examples illustrate the breadth and possibilities of a career in manufacturing.
Manufacturing and engineering will help you to discover how the world works. You have the opportunity to create solutions for society's most pressing challenges; from energy sources to electric cars, microchips to medical technology. You use your creativity to develop solutions to complex problems using a combination of concrete knowledge and your own ideas and inspiration when devising a successful, original design or development. The sheer variety of manufacturing work and the fact that it is based on new ideas and technology mean that no two days at work are ever the same. Throughout your studies and into your working career, you will be faced with problems which require your imagination as well as your logic and analytical skills.
As today's graduates enter the workforce at a time of deep economic gloom, we are faced with the reality that we need to think very carefully about our career choices. Should you choose a career in manufacturing, your work will be valued very highly. Manufacturing in this country is vital to economic growth; UK manufacturing generated £137bn in Gross Value Added in 2011 - roughly 10% of the UK economy (and yes, that means that the UK makes more from manufacturing than from financial services). Not only does it provide rewarding and exciting personal careers, but you are driving our society forward technologically and economically. The learning and discovery that a career in manufacturing provides is not purely a luxury; British manufacturing provides a practical and financially rewarding career - median salaries in manufacturing are thousands of pounds higher than the UK average, and pay for full-time engineers is in the top 30% of UK salaries.
When I finished my A Levels, I went to university to study engineering with a large proportion of my tuition costs funded by an industry scholarship. This funding helped me to pay my way through university, and gave me the opportunity to gain paid work experience during my summer holidays. Whilst at university I became involved with Engineers Without Borders UK, whose mission is to remove barriers to human development both in the UK and overseas, which appealed to me as it provided a practical way to make use of my engineering knowledge.
These experiences, outside of my studies, have not only made me more employable, but have already given me a wealth of life-changing opportunities, including living and working in Spain and Peru. I am now working as a graduate engineer for Ramboll, an international engineering company with a strong presence across the UK. I have always been drawn to the global mobility that this career can provide, and in addition to creating jobs and new technologies, a career in manufacturing also allows you to take British expertise to the world stage.
So whatever your A level or GCSE results, I invite you to consider a career in manufacturing. It allows you to develop your potential in an industry where ingenuity is rewarded, where you will be challenged intellectually, and that gives you the opportunity to unleash your creativity.
Most rewarding of all, you can use your skills in a way that will have the greatest possible impact on improving the lives of people in the UK and beyond. If these are ambitions you share, then UK manufacturing needs you because the industry cannot continue to succeed without people like you to drive it.