Graduates Communicating

Tuesday saw me at the Institution of Civil Engineers East of England graduates Communications Competition held at the Harry Potteresque Engineering Department of Cambridge University.  The competition sees teams of graduate civil engineers presenting on one of five prescribed scenarios as if at a public meeting.  I was pleased to see two teams there from Essex with many ICE members who I know quite well.

There were to be six teams presenting throughout the evening however the team from Halcrow had to pull out at the last minute.  The remaining five teams in running order were:

  • AECOM St Albans
  • AECOM Chelmsford
  • Essex County Council
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Skanska Balfour Beatty M25JV

The format for the evening was that each team presented on their topic to the audience consisting of the other team members, the judges and other attendees as if presenting to the public at a public meeting. I was there to both support the event and AECOM Chelmsford team.

Four judges had given up their time to support the event. They were:

  • John St Ledger – Chairman of the Cambridge Branch of the ICE
  • Ellee Seymour – Press Consultant, Journalist, Political and PR Blogger
  • John Manning – Civil Engineering Consultant
  • Debra Larkman – HR Development Director at BDP London

All the teams presented for 20 minutes on their selected scenario after which they were grilled by the judges and other attendees on the proposals. The the Q&A time really tested the speakers with awkward questions being posed from ‘concerned members of the public’.   The teams had also each produced an information leaflet (see below) that was distributed before their presentation.

Leaflets provided by the teams

AECOM St Albans were up first and presented for 20 minutes on the proposed new East London Line Extension Albert Square Station.   They were followed by AECOM Chelmsford who presented in a similar fashion on the same scenario.  The public raised many concerns about the proposals including the noise and disruption that would be caused during the 3 year construction period and the possibility of tunnel collapse and building settlement during the works.

The team from Essex County Council then presented on the Greenshire County Council Bickerton Cycleway scheme. This scenario centered around the improvement of cycleways in Bickerton including the construction of a segregated two way cycle lane along the main street of Bickerton and the refurbishment of a nearby multi-storey car park to make up for lost town centre street parking.  The public again raised concerns over the proposals including the reduced parking and access to shops and businesses and the benefits of such a scheme.  Norfolk County Council presented after Essex on the same scenario but with a slightly different tack.  The Norfolk team included a doctor (professor) and a local councillor which was a nice touch.

Finally the team from Skanska Balfour Beatty tackled the controversial Greenshire District Council proposal to construct a new 250 space car park in the pretty seaside town of Quaintsville.  They presented on the need for the car park and proposed two possible location options – one requiring compulsory purchase of part of the 18th hole of the local golf course and the other requiring use of part of the environmentally sensitive dunes area home to rare Dune Warbler.  This proposal prompted very heated debate from the public with strong views on the golf course option being provided by the Colonel – a long time member of the golf course who did not want see ‘his’ course either affected by the works or invaded by lots of additional out of town golfers.  The team did well in the face of hostile questioning.

Ultimately it was the team from AECOM Chelmsford who were victorious following a very natural presentation without the use of too many scripted words, with good presentation material and leaflet, and with a well managed Q&A session after.   The team from Norfolk County Council came a close second with Essex County Council in third.

AECOM Chelmsford team with the Judges

In the photo above back row from left to right Roger Chantrelle (ICE), Chris Reeves, Ackhlaq Choudhury, Paul Eaves, Laura Cockle and Ben Biggs.  Front row left to right John St Ledger, Ellee Seymour, Debra Larkman and John Manning.  Photo courtesy of Chris Dodson (ICE) .

The winning team received a selection of professional civil engineering books, a corporate journal subscription and a book voucher and will go on to represent the East of England at the national semi finals in April.

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