20th May 14:32 GMT
Attracting young talent

Attracting young talent

Steve Holliday on the importance of investing in and encouraging the next generation of talent to pursue engineering careers.

In his Leadership Award acceptance speech, given at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering Promise Fund Gala, National Grid Chief Executive Steve Holliday stressed the importance of investing in and encouraging the next generation of talent to pursue engineering careers. Here are some highlights from the speech…

It’s a real privilege – and also very humbling – to be recognised through this Leadership Award from a university that’s been educating people to change the world for more than 150 years.

In reality, this award reflects not so much on me, but on the thousands of engineers at National Grid who work to connect people to the energy they use.  Every day they safely deliver natural gas and electricity to tens of millions of people, businesses, and communities.

Engineering is a fantastic profession, offering almost unlimited opportunities while supporting the growth of the economy and making the communities we live in, and ultimately the world, a better place. Not many professions offer that.

As an example of the impact you can have as an engineer, I recently learned it was a former Polytechnic engineering student James Wood, who constructed the steel cables for the Brooklyn Bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge, back in 1883. Later, those steel cables made cable-lift elevators possible, changing the skylines of cities everywhere.

Looking at that bridge, I marvel at how local innovation can revolutionize an entire city, nation, and even the world. James Wood did it, as have countless other NYU students, and I’m standing before graduate engineering students with the same mission – to change the world.

However we have a problem – there aren’t enough people coming into the profession, either in the US or UK. Data from a recent MIT study shows only 18.4% of American engineering students are female, and women make up just 13.4% of engineers in the workplace.

The situation in the UK is even worse, with women only making up 15.8% of engineering students and 6% of engineering professionals in the workplace.

US National Science Foundation report highlights that there is significant under-representation from the black and Hispanic communities, which are under-represented by 59% and 63% respectively in engineering.

This means that, as a profession, we’re missing out. We can’t be getting full access to the best and brightest talent. For the future of organizations like National Grid, and ultimately the future of the US, this is simply not acceptable. More needs to be done and this is why the Polytechnic’s Promise Scholarship Fund is so important.

As a business we have a role to play, too. We need to be more linked into the next generation through schools and colleges, to inspire them around the opportunities, break stereotypes and offer multiple clear routes and pathways for them to take.

This is why National Grid has a number of strong, long-lasting partnerships, like the one with the Polytechnic School of Engineering at NYU.

I’m proud to say that National Grid has supported NYU with over $2million for scholarships; sponsored research; supported kindergarten through 12th grade STEM education; established employee matching gifts; and most recently made a $225,000 commitment to the NYU Urban Future Lab.

Relationships like these are intentionally aimed at two objectives: to help us develop innovative solutions and also attract talent – not just into our organization, but into the sector as a whole.

I’m assuming that the reason you are all here this evening is that you too want to make a difference. This isn’t something that one person, company or college can fix alone. But by supporting the Promise Scholarship Fund, by building relationships with your local school or college, by making sure females and minorities can not only survive but thrive in your organizations, you can be part of the solution.




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