Breaking away from ‘male and pale’

In a recent Royal Academy of Engineering report, Sue Percy, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, says: “The skills shortage issue is a serious one that has the potential to undermine the industry’s ability to deliver the key infrastructure projects that are underway, as well as the ongoing maintenance work required to keep our transport infrastructure fit for purpose.”

With fewer non-UK-passport-holding engineers potentially joining the British workforce following the EU referendum, the well-known skills shortage in the engineering sector could get a lot worse, the report warns.

But is there a solution closer to home? The engineering profession is infamously “male and pale”. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, 92 per cent of engineers are men and a staggering 94 per cent are white. These are startling statistics given there is no reason why women or people from ethnic minorities are unsuited to careers in engineering.

While we recognise there is still more that we could do as a business, it is fair to say that at Amey we have always wanted people to work for us who come from a wide range of backgrounds. More than 95 nationalities are represented in our workforce, and our business is large and varied, operating in not just engineering, but a wide range of public and regulated services where a spectrum of skills and experience are required. Embracing diversity has always given us the best chance to secure the talent we need.

If more businesses encouraged people outside of the male-pale mould to step forward and join them, then wouldn’t the skills shortage threat they face be mitigated?

There is no reason why women or people from ethnic minorities are unsuited to careers in engineering

It is for this reason that at Amey we have women’s mentoring schemes, a women returners’ programme, have introduced protective equipment that fits women appropriately and carry out a feedback survey of women who work within our engineering division. We have established a LGBTA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies – network that provides an opportunity for people to work together and ensure this group has a voice which is heard by our wider business and our executive team.

Because we believe so strongly in an inclusive culture at Amey, we have rolled out unconscious bias training to 1,300 people-managers and intend to reach the rest in the next 12 months.

There are, of course, other compelling reasons to put inclusion high up an organisation’s agenda.

Amey works in almost every county of the UK and it’s important to us that we ensure our workforce truly reflects the diverse communities we serve. If a business doesn’t reflect the customers it ultimately serves, it risks losing sight of their needs.

By bringing together different people with different perspectives, work experiences, backgrounds and abilities, a business should become more connected, innovative and more effective. Ultimately, we can provide greater value to our customers through greater inclusion and diversity in our workforce.

Consider this: a two-year study completed at the end of 2015 by Deloitte compared the talent practices and business performance of more than 450 global companies. The results showed that those embracing diversity and inclusion statistically outperformed their peers in all aspects of their business.

But being inclusive isn’t just about performing better. Nor is it limited to our own employees either. It is also about providing services that are inclusive of everyone in society; making sure the services we provide do not create barriers to people because of their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

That’s why it is part of our corporate ethos to treat everyone who works for us, or with us, fairly, with dignity and respect. We’re very proud to have been awarded Investors in Diversity accreditation, which recognises that people across our business value and support each other. We’re also committed to achieving Leaders in Diversity status in 2017.

No one is sure what post-Brexit UK will resemble exactly, however there has never been a more compelling case for championing a culture of inclusiveness and diversity for our own and other businesses.

Andy Milner, CEO Amey