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Why today’s young professionals are key to the future of mobility

Jason Pavey, Local Transport market director, Atkins, explains why having a steady stream of well-rounded young professionals is so crucial to supporting the future of transport

Jason Pavey
12 November 2020
Jason Pavey, Local Transport market director, Atkins
Jason Pavey, Local Transport market director, Atkins


The famous author Robert Louis Stevenson once said: 'Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant'.

The latest Youth Unemployment Statistics, as presented in a report to House of Commons published on 13 October 2020, show that the youth have borne the brunt of the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.  

We will only meet the challenges we face through investing in the next generation of engineering professionals

In the period from June-August 2020 the youth unemployment rate was 14.1%, compared to an unemployment rate of 4.5% for the whole population. Youth unemployment is running at its highest level since 2016, with the construction sector amongst the hardest hit, but it’s the youth of today that are the engineers of tomorrow, and they will be critical to our future success.

Today’s young professionals are tomorrow’s future leaders and ensuring that we help equip them with the right skills, knowledge, and attitudes is a responsibility we can’t ignore.

During recent months, our young professionals have felt the impact of furlough schemes and job cuts, and we must recognise the effect of this approach on tomorrow’s talent.

We all go through our careers learning new skills and competencies as we mature, but today’s young professionals have more challenges to face than those they succeed.

As solutions to connectivity and societal challenges become more complex, we must continue to invest in developing future leaders who can translate and integrate many more aspects than their predecessors.

The need to consider the climate

As we start to recover from the challenges that the last few months, the need to build back green will be the new normal for many young professionals embarking on their careers today.

The climate emergency and the need to create zero-carbon transport solutions and infrastructure play heavily on the minds of today’s transport professionals. 

However, the responsibility for engineering those outcomes will be in the hands of the current generation of early careers, graduates and apprentices by the time we arrive at 2050.

Building a diverse and inclusive approach

The need for a diverse and inclusive mindset is also a key pillar in supporting change; not just in transport, but in every other aspect of our lives.

It’s more important than ever for young professionals to consider how inclusive they are as they develop leadership skills.

Whether engaging within a project team, with clients, the wider industry or with members of the public during consultations; an inclusive approach provides a genuine opportunity to get more from the diversity of our teams where we can draw out added value through collaboration.

We are striving to deliver infrastructure projects that seek to improve the very fabric of our society. To succeed, we need to encourage young professionals to develop a keen interest and understanding of social value and how we, as a profession, can deliver more for our communities.

Our world is changing. Devolution is supporting the creation of a new order. Our young professionals need to be curious about our clients and the external world as it continues to evolve. Be it as part of devolution and the levelling up agenda or alternative models to run and invest in our railways and transport systems of the future. 

Whilst core professional competencies are still crucial – how we create solutions has changed the need for a sturdy platform founded around engineering/planning principals.

Embracing digital solutions to support the physical world

The emergence of digital technologies provides young professionals with an opportunity through which they can harness digital as a force for good. Technology will enable us to understand productivity gains, drive innovation across the sector and deliver more for our clients with fewer resources and is a critical aspect of our future success.

Solutions will become more and more complex, intertwining the physical and digital, and today’s young professionals are in an excellent place to exploit the opportunities that digital technologies offer for the benefit of society.

Investing in the future of transport

Organisations must understand the importance of developing and investing in the talents of young professionals. 

There is a need for us all to embrace inclusive leadership and appreciate the critical role the next generation of transport professionals will face as we seek to build a modern, zero-carbon transport system.

We will only meet the challenges we face through investing in the next generation of engineering professionals. We must develop a profession cognisant of its effects on public health, on fellow citizens and its environmental impact on nature.

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