Celebrating our STEM Ambassadors

             

Celebrating our STEM Ambassadors

PBA, now part of Stantec, works extensively to support the uptake of STEM subjects in schools and colleges to encourage more young people to take up careers in the development and infrastructure industry. We have an ongoing commitment to engage with local communities to open a world of opportunities in engineering careers to students who may have otherwise remained unaware.

Our team of dedicated and enthusiastic STEM ambassadors give up their time to inspire potential future engineers to fulfil our STEM initiative. We spoke to a few to find out more about why they do what they do and to learn more about what keeps them motivated.

Rachel Kirkwood, Assistant Transport Planner

What is your STEM background and route into your career in STEM?

I studied Maths, Chemistry and Biology at A Level but didn’t have a career path in mind at all. After a few false starts (including a brief stint doing a nursing degree…) my brother suggested that I might enjoy engineering. I hadn’t considered this before but did a bit of research and decided that civil engineering sounded interesting - I loved the idea of being able to influence the design of almost everything around me. I studied for my BEng at the University of Surrey and as part of this, I completed placements with PBA’s Civils, Environment and Transport teams. I loved the variety involved with working in Transport Planning so decided to return to the discipline after graduating last summer.

What do you love about being a STEM ambassador?

I love providing children with the opportunity to learn about real careers that they have probably never heard of. I’m passionate about changing perceptions of what an “engineer” looks like and building pupils’ science capital so that they fully believe a career in STEM is an option for everyone. Volunteering at STEM events is also great for personal development and is very rewarding.

What is your favourite STEM event that you recently volunteered at?

I’ve really enjoyed taking our new sustainable city planning activity ‘Recycle City’ out to some local primary schools. I was involved with designing this activity so it’s very satisfying seeing it in action and I love the amazingly creative ideas each group comes up with!

Henry Elliott-Sackeyfio, Principal Engineer – Civils

What is your STEM background and route into your career in STEM?

Coming from an engineering family background, it was no surprise that I aspired to be a Civil Engineer. As a boy, I always wanted to be an engineer but not specifically sure of which type. This became clearer in secondary school, at technical drawing class. I truly enjoyed and was quite adept at engineering drawings. I, therefore, decided to venture into a career in Civil Engineering and studied for a BEng Degree at the University of East London. I have worked as a Civil Engineer, specialising in Highways and Infrastructure for a good number of years, and have had several amazing projects designed and constructed successfully, and making a difference in their little parts of England.

In my current role at PBA, I was given the opportunity to become the STEM Coordinator for the Northampton office. This was my first real introduction to the world of STEM engagement. Since then I have progressed to develop the STEM initiative in the Northampton office, by creating links with various secondary schools, inspiring staff to sign up as STEM ambassadors, and arranging attendance at various STEM events.

What do you love about being a STEM ambassador?

I enjoy the exposure to a different environment aside that which I work in. Mostly, I enjoy giving back to the community by inspiring the younger generation, which entails, having one to one chats with students, giving them a positive yet realistic view on career choices, while exhibiting the wonderful and exciting world of Engineering.

What is your favourite STEM event that you recently volunteered at?

I particularly enjoy events which encourage informal conversations with students. This presents the opportunity to provide targeted guidance and advice and gives the students the opportunity to ask important questions about their prospects and career choices.

Northampton School for Boys recently hosted their annual 6th Form Employment and Opportunities Evening. I attended this event, with a fellow ambassador, and pitched a stand for PBA, now part of Stantec. This was a very busy event, and I had the opportunity to speak to many students and parents about, who we are, what we do, the Graduate/Apprentice opportunities available in Civil Engineering, as well as the various career paths offered by the business.

Kirstie Thistlethwaite, Graduate Engineer – Hydrology

What is your STEM background and route into your career in STEM?

I studied Maths, Chemistry, Geography and Art at A level. While in Sixth Form I looked into many university degrees that lead to various careers, from teaching to fine art to chemistry. I eventually settled on a BSc in Environmental Science at Bath Spa University. I believe this decision was influenced by a childhood spent exploring the outdoors on our family farm, and work experience I did at the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology where I developed my knowledge in STEM subjects.

In my undergraduate degree, I went on a field trip to India where we studied the hydrology of the Lower Himalaya alongside the knowledge of local people surrounding hydrology. This sparked my interest in the engineering associated with hydrology, which leads me to undertake an MSc in Water and Environmental Management under the Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol. After graduating I decided to take a gap year while I found a job within the consultancy sector.

What do you love about being a STEM ambassador?

I thoroughly enjoy working with young people developing and changing their perspectives on who an engineer is and what we do on a day to day bases. I love seeing their understanding grow on how STEM is utilised in the ‘real world’. I believe being a STEM ambassador not only benefits the young people but also supports my continual professional development and is very fulfilling.

What is your favourite STEM event that you recently volunteered at?

I have been loving taking part in Go4SET, which a 10-week project and competition a local school. The team are developing an Eco Factory for which they are producing a scaled model, a research report, a presentation and display boards which they are to be presented at the University of Plymouth on the celebration day. All the participants will receive Industrial Cadets awards at the end of the project. It is fantastic to see their creative and STEM knowledge within the Eco Factory design.

Eleanor Robinson, Apprentice Technician 2

What is your STEM background and route into your career in STEM?

Whilst completing my A-Levels, I applied to study a degree in Business Management at the University of Worcester and received a Conditional Offer. I deferred my place, with the plan of taking a gap year and during this time I met Haider and Warren from PBA at an EDGE Careers Fair. At the event, Haider explained what PBA do and how they offer apprenticeships. I had never considered an apprenticeship within the engineering sector as I thought you had to be super intelligent! That evening, I applied for the position online and I’ve never looked back.

What do you love about being a STEM ambassador?

I love being a STEM Ambassador as it allows me to provide students and staff from local schools with up-to-date information on how to find/apply for an apprenticeship, as well as discuss the opportunity of going to university and the engineering sector. As a young person, I find that I am approachable at these events which has allowed me to speak from my own experience and advise young people with difficult decisions.

What is your favourite STEM event that you recently volunteered at?

One of my favourite events was at a Careers Fair when I was approached by one of my former secondary school teachers. She was both shocked and happy to see me at the event and wanted to hear about how I came to be an apprentice. Since then, she has invited me to speak at my old school about my journey and how apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity!

Minvydas Razaitis, Graduate Engineer

What is your STEM background and route into your career in STEM?

Ever since I can remember I’ve always liked building stuff, and during my school years I was very fortunate to naturally do well in both Maths and Physics. Over time these subjects became my favourite subjects, and a career in structural engineering became an obvious path I would enjoy. I graduated from the University of Sheffield and having done internships in several different companies I found myself in a great company with PBA team in Oxford.

What do you love about being a STEM ambassador?

Besides having an incredible graduate training scheme, PBA encourages all its graduates to become STEM ambassadors which is a great way to take part in all sorts of interesting events, and more importantly to help the younger generation discover the sense of fulfilment and responsibility drawn from a career in engineering can help to achieve.

What is your favourite STEM event that you recently volunteered at?

Within my first year at PBA, me and my colleagues, Will Davies and James Lambeth, were entrusted to develop and implement a STEM pipeline programme where we worked to organise a total of eight full-day workshops for over fifty students in Reading and Heathrow UTCs. These are only a few from many exciting events I’ve had a chance to take part in, and now having joined forces with Stantec I’m certain there will be many more to come.