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Insights How to find a career pathway into social value

In 2021, shortly after the Government implemented its policy requiring 10% weighting to social value in the procurement process. Michelle Baker, Technical Director Social Value for AtkinsRéalis, formed the Social Value Professional Services Forum. Michelle recognised the industry-wide impact of the new policy and that there was real need for a consistent approach from across the sector.

The forum has now produced a podcast about careers in the sector as it’s clear that as it grows, there is more demand for talented professionals to ensure social value policies are embedded effectively for our clients. And AtkinsRéalis’ own social value apprentice Harry Walsh, who took part in the podcast, shares his valuable experience of joining the industry.

Michelle Baker:

The Social Value Professional Services Forum was founded with the purpose of bringing industry leaders together, to work on a consensus approach for delivering social value policies across major development and infrastructure projects.

It was my feeling at the time, and I know it was shared by many in the sector, that getting this right was so crucial for the future of our industry that it required cross-party support, and to put competitive interests aside. That’s why the forum now includes senior social value representatives from AtkinsRéalis, Arup, AECOM, Mott McDonald, Jacobs and WSP, which meets on a regular basis.

Something that was clear to us as a group is that we’ve all arrived in our various roles from a range of different backgrounds, there was no clear pathway into a career in social value.

We also know that social value and ESG are areas that young professionals and the next generation are keen to work in, and it’s a sector that needs an injection of talented new people in post.

Today, as an industry our organisations are being asked to deliver meaningful social value outcomes beyond “business as usual” through the tendering process. This poses a challenge in capacity across our industry, all vying for the same talent and potentially not having experienced people to support delivery. That is why it’s vital that we attract the right talent into our organisations.

So in collaboration with the Young Professionals in Social Value we wanted to highlight the various routes into the social value profession with a podcast ahead of national careers week.

Working with Engineering Matters; Kieran Ronnie, AECOM, Harry Walsh, AtkinsRéalis, Laura O’Leary, Arup, Carla Greaves, WSP and Olivia Sutcliffe, SV Young Professionals have shared their stories of why social value was a career path for them.

For my own part, I have no formal qualifications but with hard work and tenacity have reached a technical leadership role in social value at AtkinsRéalis. I think it’s important to highlight that not everyone comes through the educational route for some roles in our industry. For me personally, I am looking for the “right essence of individuals so I can develop the social value consultants of the future. The right social value consultants are out there and whilst there aren’t any formal qualifications in social value, I hope this podcast provides valuable insights into what a brilliant career path social value can be.

Harry Walsh:

Photo of Harry smiling towards the camera

Before joining AtkinsRéalis I was aware of social value, but I did not know the full capabilities of how a project is able to impact communities through socio-economic and environmental outcomes. I knew when applying to AtkinsRealis’ first social value apprentice role in 2022, that I held values and skills that aligned with the role and I could see my career in this industry.

From my short time here, I have come to understand everyone has their unique skills, experiences and knowledge about social value, and how best to support our clients to deliver these benefits. This has allowed me to learn an incredible amount from everyone I have worked with and get insights into different projects, clients, and methods of delivery.

In all honesty, I didn’t fully appreciate the full extent of how fortunate I was landing this apprenticeship position at AtkinsRéalis.

I started my apprenticeship 18 months ago and have been progressing through six-month secondments across all our divisions, as well as studying and supporting our social value corporate function. This enables me to be involved in some amazing projects, develop new skills and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to deliver meaningful social value to the communities in which we work. I am helping with our award-winning Governors for Schools programme, overseeing our social value training programme, ensuring our social value collateral supports work winning and attending external events that increase my confidence, and allow me to network more widely in our industry.

Being the first social value apprentice at AtkinsRéalis allows me to wake up every day and embrace each challenge, no day is like another and every week some brilliant and new happens for me. I have the privilege of working with some incredible colleagues and managers, who are always going the extra mile to ensure I am getting the best experiences and challenges; to learn, develop and succeed.

Get inspired by Michelle and Harry as they explore career pathway in social value! Listen to the podcast here.