University of Brighton: Advanced Engineering

University of Brighton – Civil Engineering Industrial Advisory Board (IAB)

Nigel Clifford has been involved with the University of Brighton since 2012. His work with the University arose from his aspiration to “put something back” into civil engineering since graduating in 1990. He initially commenced guest lecturing to students about a career in civil engineering. After joining the IAB in 2015 he commenced a 4-year tenure as Chairman in 2019.

The purpose of the IAB is to help incorporate industry awareness and experience into the students’ curriculum. The 10 industry members on the board achieve this through both direct and indirect help. For example, indirectly through a review of modules or the promotion of Health & Safety. Direct support can involve arranging site visits and presenting guest lectures.

Several experts have also presented to the students. In March 2022 Nigel arranged for the current President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Ed McCann (photo below) to visit the University. Ed was able to speak to the civil engineering students and staff, which was very well received.

Surgery Sessions

In order to further improve the direct input from industry members, in February 2020 Nigel piloted 1-to-1 Surgery sessions. At these, students could physically meet with members of the IAB at the University for 20–30-minute sessions, and discuss anything they were curious to learn with regard to:

Nigel Clifford presents with Ed McCann of the ICE
  • The civil engineering industry.
  • Future employability.
  • What it’s like to be a Civil Engineer.
  • Should they do a 3 or 4-year course?
  • What will they be doing on Day 1 of their first job?
  • How initially working for a consultant or a contractor may suit them.
  • Training agreements and routes to ICE Membership
  • What is the pay like?

The pilot scheme was successful with high demand for available slots in subsequent sessions. During the pandemic, Surgery sessions could not be held in person. However, they kept going with sessions held on MS Teams, Zoom, or on the phone. Two industry members are made available every week on a rotation basis throughout the academic year.

To date, approximately 15% of students in the school have spoken to at least one of the IAB industry members at some point. Feedback from the students to academic staff has been very positive. The industry members are often thanked by the students at the end of the Surgery sessions for increasing awareness and motivating them. Some students have called 3-4 members at different times (one student had 7 calls in total) to get even more benefit out of the process by canvassing more than one industry member’s opinions. Having heard of the success of this scheme, other schools within the university are looking to start surgery sessions of their own.

Mock Interviews

Nigel has continued with the IAB’s involvement in holding mock interviews for any student who requests one. He has also held additional advisory sessions for students who require advice in the run-up to actual job interviews.

Nigel summarises, “The direct interaction is rewarding for both students and the industry members. The IAB has helped many students find placements or employment by giving them extra confidence to promote themselves. In some cases we have been able to offer them roles directly, such was the quality of the individual. If we can help just a handful of students each year I feel the IAB is providing a valuable service”.

The IAB is continuing in its endeavour to find new ways of incorporating industry influence into both the civil engineering curriculum and the University as a whole. One of the IAB’s next initiatives is to find ways of collaborating with other places of learning to achieve the same aims.

To find out more about Nigel and his work, click here.