18th August 2021

Skills for the future of urban engineering

With many young people looking at their future options for studying and career, our Head of People & Culture, Caroline Todd, explores the skills engineers need. This article was first published at

We’re always looking out for civil and structural engineers and transport planners who are ready to be the disruptors of the future.

What the industry needs more than anything right now, is people who can challenge old ways of doing things and find innovative solutions that will meet the future needs of urban planning and help to deliver healthier towns and cities.

The greatest challenge that we face today is the international climate emergency. To begin tackling such a huge and complex problem, our practice relies on people who are ready to make a positive impact which often starts with their local environment. We’re looking for people who are committed to improving people’s lives in sometimes the smallest of ways, for example a dedicated cycle lane, so that they will have a positive environmental impact on a much larger scale.

Our industry has traditionally left a vast carbon footprint. We can’t simply rely on other industries to push innovative climate solutions to resolve this – it’s on all of us to make a change. Hence the need to begin small but always thinking much bigger; this is exactly why we need disruptors who can challenge current approaches from within and address external preconceptions.

There are several skills that are required to bring the change that we need in engineering. The first is technical excellence, we really pride ourselves on this. Whilst the technical excellence may be a given, emotional intelligence, is also absolutely critical in our discipline. Engineers need to be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes to understand whether what they are creating will have a positive impact. They need to have a holistic view of the process.

Another gap we’re seeing in the market applies to more senior engineers who lack the experience of using modern methods of green construction and nature-based solutions. There are many talented engineers out there who have gained lots of experience working with steel or reinforced concrete. But when it comes to materials like timber, there are fewer who have this skillset which will impact on the speed at which we can build in a more sustainable way.

Being a disruptor means not only bringing innovative ideas and the right experience, but also ensuring you have business development skills to bring new solutions to the market. Engineers need to be able to influence designs at an early stage and have both the confidence to challenge existing plans and the communication skills to persuade people to listen.

Our engineers of the future need skills to be able to challenge and disrupt in the name of the global climate emergency. This is how we will effect real change in our places and our buildings; enhancing the lives of people living in our communities as well as playing our part in protecting the world for future generations.

Skills for the future of urban engineering