“We know there’s a huge skills gap in engineering, one that unless we do something now, is likely to grow in the future along with the demand for engineers and technologists,” says Amit Kotecha, Senior Campaigns Manager within Network Rail’s central HR team.
“Part of my role is to recruit for our future talent pipeline by inspiring young people to take up STEM through engagement programmes, and engineering is a key stream within this programme of work.”
Funding IET programmes and events
Amit was drawn to the IET when he began looking for delivery partners with well-established engagement programmes.
“We talked to several industry partners who all spoke very highly of the IET and its programmes, which really encouraged us to partner with them,” he says.
Since then, the railway company has partnered with the IET by funding and engaging in IET Faraday Challenge Days and the FIRST® LEGO® League.
“One of the big things for us is reach and impact, and the IET works really well for us as it has great programmes, and connections and relationships with schools all across the country.”
Amit first worked with the IET on the 2020/21 season of IET Faraday Challenge Days. As theme partner for the season, the company created a bespoke challenge for participants, which in this case was to assist Network Rail in managing an aspect of increased passenger use on its stations.
Over the period of a day, teams of pupils had to demonstrate they had the engineering skills required to engineer and construct a working prototype of their design and pitch their products to the judges.
“Having delivered one programme with the IET we saw how successful it was and the benefits of funding such events,” Amit says. “It enabled us to actually get into the schools themselves – something we couldn’t do without an education delivery partner.”
Improving visibility, reach and impact
“What this means for Network Rail is that our role models can take part in these programmes, enabling us to make a real impact by gaining that visibility with young people. They get to talk to them about the different careers at Network Rail and the variety of projects that we work on, something that’s really important for us.
“This kind of outreach work is also about changing perceptions: getting kids to see that Network Rail is about so much more than driving trains and fixing tracks.”
After its success with the IET Faraday Challenge Days season, Network Rail then partnered with the IET on the FIRST® LEGO® League. This was specifically chosen as a way for the organisation to reach out to primary schools; “but the whole competition really ticked a lot of boxes for us,” Amit notes.
Why industry partnerships are so important to the IET Futures Fund
Industry partnerships and funding are hugely important to the IET Futures Fund. This is because, as Amit points out, a lot of work goes into these national STEM programmes.
“There’s a huge cost behind delivering these programmes and producing the related resources. Without industry support the IET wouldn’t be able to do what it does right now.
“That’s why it’s so important for organisations like ours to partner with the IET and we will definitely continue to do so. If your business is looking to inspire the next generation and promote your industry then the IET has got fantastic platforms for industry to get involved in and support.
“Just think of the impact the organisation could have if it was able to really scale up thanks to more support from industry partners!”