Seeing is Believing: Promoting diversity in the STEM sector
November 23, 2015
In early November, RSK director Sue Sljivic joined 15 senior business leaders from the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors on a Business in the Community ‘Seeing is Believing’ visit to various locations in London organised on behalf of the Prince of Wales. The day was spent exploring the issues surrounding the recruitment, retention and progression of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) talent in STEM subjects.
The visit highlighted the low numbers of BAME employees within the STEM sectors and their slow rate of progression into management. Despite one in five of the university population in the UK studying STEM subjects being from a BAME background, the numbers of BAME employees in STEM employment sectors do not reflect this. Furthermore, a recent Business in the Community report into BAME in management positions in the UK revealed that 74% of those BAME employees progressing into management are clustered in just three sectors: public administration, education and health; banking, finance and insurance; and distribution, hotels and restaurants.
Sue comments, “The Seeing is Believing visit was interesting and we achieved a lot in a short time. I learned about how cultural differences may affect the perception of performance within a company and more about the language of diversity, and met others on the panel to hear about their experiences and support organisations that we can work with to reach groups with which we perhaps do not currently engage. Conversations with young apprentices and MITIE employees nicely illustrated the important role that mentors play in the workplace.”
Beyond examining policies and processes, the visit challenged delegates to consider how the industry can collaborate on securing a more diverse workforce and how their organisations can champion the recruitment, retention and progression of BAME talent in the STEM sectors. Since the seminar, Sue has reported to the organiser, Business in the Community, on RSK’s commitment to promoting diversity in the STEM sectors, and will be working with the RSK human resources team to explore ways to take this further.
RSK has recently provided noise support to Babcock Rail during its engineering programme in Bath/North East Somerset and Wiltshire, UK. Undertaken over a six-week period, the work involved track lowering by up to 600 mm and track renewal within various tunnels at Sydney Gardens (Bath), Dundas Aqueduct and Box Village, and a complete rebuild for Bathampton Junction. The work was part of the wider Great Western Electrification scheme, which aims to electrify the railway line between London and Cardiff.
Babcock Rail commissioned the RSK acoustics team to provide real-time noise monitoring at various locations along the project route to enable construction noise to be monitored continuously throughout successive 24-hour periods. The monitoring system enables a client to view the noise levels and set appropriate trigger thresholds. Most importantly, it provides alerts via email that notify the user of potential and actual exceedances. This feature was particularly important to this project, as it was a requirement of the approved Section 61 application and enabled the construction team to modify its working practices and manage noise levels before an exceedance occurred.
RSK was involved at an early stage to meet the respective environmental health officers and provide input regarding appropriate monitoring locations, noise limits and data capture. There were 17 noise sensitive receptors chosen for the project that required up to six weeks of continuous monitoring. Throughout this time, noise levels were downloaded daily from the equipment via a web server and individual reports were submitted to the client with an assessment against the noise criteria.
The noise monitoring programme was conducted on time and within the strict parameters set by the local authority and Network Rail. The programme helped to minimise disturbance to local residents and enabled the construction team to modify its working practices and reduce noise levels where possible, particularly within the sensitive areas of central Bath.
In late October, Structural Soils (an RSK company) welcomed 40 MSc engineering geology students from Leeds University to its office in Bristol for an action-packed site and laboratory visit. The students toured the Bristol Arena site where Structural Soils has various fieldwork operations under way, including ground probing radar, rotary drilling with pressure meter testing, trial pitting, window sampling and dynamic cone penetrometer testing. After lunch, they had a tour of the soil laboratory and the rock logging area.
Eric Downey, senior engineering geologist says, “The whole office got involved in the visit to meet and greet the students over their morning coffee and lunch to show them what it is like to be a working engineer. They were very interested in any opportunities RSK and Structural Soils could offer them for future employment.”
After the visit, Dr Jared West, associate professor, University of Leeds, said, “Thanks for an excellent visit, which the students seemed to enjoy very much.
“It was particularly good that you got the geophysics team there, especially as they could demonstrate how geophysics is actually used in site investigation. The details of the Mercia Mudstone core logging were also highly beneficial and relevant to the students’ current learning.”
Structural Soils staff talking to the students over lunch
Teaching the students how to log rock to BS 5930 2015
Soilfix’s Milford Hospital remediation project in Milford, UK, was highly commended at last week’s Brownfield Briefing Awards in the Best Reuse of Materials category. The project, on land that previously belonged to the hospital in Surrey, saw RSK and remediation and environmental services provider Soilfix work closely together to devise an innovative remedial solution.
Following RSK Iraq’s press release at the end of August, which detailed its combined geotechnical–environmental laboratory’s expansion aims, RSK has announced a partnership with the University of Basrah to train and employ Iraqi engineers for the oil industry.