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Insights Engineering better careers in STEM

Michael, Senior Engineer, Railway Engineering, London

Encouraging more young people to choose STEM careers – and helping them grow and develop when they do – is crucial for closing the existing skills gap in our industry. That’s why AtkinsRéalis STEM Hub Leads like Michael are helping underrepresented groups to make more informed decisions about their future.

“As a STEM Hub Lead, I organise for our volunteers to run activities in schools and work with industry stakeholders to put on public events. Last summer, for example, we attended a public outreach event held by Network Rail, one of our biggest clients, at King’s Cross station. We were invited to attend because we’re part of the working group they set up to encourage more young people into STEM careers.”

In addition to his work as a STEM Hub Lead, Michael is committed to creating an environment where people can thrive within AtkinsRéalis. As a Team Leader, he manages a group of apprentices and graduates.

“I make sure my team are getting the opportunities that they want, either for their personal development or for their apprenticeship requirements. I also ringfence some time every day to have an informal chat with my team, but I regularly schedule one-to-ones too so that there’s an open forum for them to express anything they need. As I’m a Focus Area Lead for our Early Careers community, I also work with my colleagues to enhance the experience of newcomers to the industry.”

One of AtkinsRéalis’ clients, HS2, has ambitious diversity targets for the workforce and there is a focus on skills development. Another aspect of Michael’s role is to support ED&I and SEE (Skills, Employment and Education) initiatives by communicating all the great work the AtkinsRéalis staff networks are doing as well as encouraging colleagues to take part in STEM volunteering opportunities or in the AtkinsRéalis Governors for Schools scheme. NSAR’s Rail Workforce Survey 2022, highlights the skills gap challenges that the rail industry is facing and show just how important these kinds of initiatives are. Some of the key insights from the survey were the proportion of other than white workers in the industry is around 12.5% (which has remained consistent since ethnicity data collection began in 2018), and the female proportion of the workforce dropped to 14.6% in 2022, the lowest since 2018.

Michael started as a graduate engineer himself around seven years ago and right from the beginning, his line manager has been supportive in helping him to achieve his own development goals. The huge variety of international projects that the Electrical Systems team get involved in means there are new things to learn every day, and Michael makes the most of every opportunity.

“My line manager has always taken the time to answer my questions, to make sure I understand the technical context and that I’m doing OK in terms of my wellbeing, so that’s something I try to bring to my own team too. What’s kept me at AtkinsRéalis over the years is not only the supportive and friendly teams, but also the challenge. I’m very lucky to work on some very high-profile, shiny projects, and to be able to say, ‘I helped make that happen!’”

When it comes to learning opportunities, AtkinsRéalis is very open and accepting of new ideas and suggestions. Michael believes that if someone is passionate, they can always find a way to reflect their opinions to senior management and make the changes they want to see.

“Our team had been doing traction power modelling for many years, but when the type of trains being manufactured started to change, we had to find different ways to improve our internal processes. With so many different people contributing and collaborating, we found a way to automate a lot of steps that would previously have been done manually. Thanks to this automation, we’ve been able to drive efficiency and ultimately save costs and shorten programme for our clients.”

We strongly value our people’s commitment and enthusiasm, and in 2019, Michael was recognised as Employee of the Year for the wide range of internal improvement initiatives he’s been involved in, as well as his highly praised work on the Crossrail project.

“Winning Employee of the Year was a nice recognition of all the hard work that I put in – it was good to know that someone saw my contribution and continued to provide me with even more opportunities to learn and develop. That was definitely one of the proudest moments of my career.”

Join Michael in Engineering better. Discover how at InsideAtkinsRéalis