Over the past two years, through Arup’s strategic partnership with Engineers Without Borders UK, a small number of Arup employees have been helping support their International Partnerships team. These long term volunteers have each helped manage the relationship with 2-3 partner organisations, from project inception through to having volunteers in the field. This involves: building a relationship with each partner organisation; helping Engineers Without Borders UK decide on which placements should go ahead; leading the interviews for volunteers; helping organise and run the pre-departure course for successful candidates; and supporting the volunteers throughout their placements in the field.
This support has helped save a significant amount of staff time and costs to Engineers Without Borders UK, provided reviewing capacity for projects and also retained the knowledge and skills of experienced volunteers (all volunteers had previously undertaken an international placement).
''Arup volunteers are key in helping Engineers Without Borders UK undertake our international programmes and over several years, have helped our overseas projects reach more people and have a greater impact. Whether it is Arup staff volunteering their time overseas to train water engineers in Cameroon, design urban flooding defence systems in Kenya's slums or manage and support international volunteers from the UK, Arup staff are helping people everywhere access the benefits of engineering.''
Alongside the long-term volunteers managing the programme, a number of more experienced Arup employees have been involved in mentoring the volunteers whilst in the field. The volunteers in the field are often the only engineer in their discipline, so these mentors provide much needed technical support from the UK and open the project up to the whole knowledge within Arup, not just that of the individual volunteers.
"Essentially mentors provide advice to volunteers on Engineers Without Borders UK placements, the idea being that the opportunity to discuss things with someone with more experience makes the volunteers more effective and their output more reliable and useful. In practice this means things like discussing the volunteer’s ideas, giving advice on ways to move forward, checking calculations, or pointing the volunteer towards where they can find things out. As well as supporting projects that very much need doing, probably the biggest thing that mentors gain is the opportunity to use both technical and non-technical skills in new situations and environments. This means asking about and understanding the why’s and the science behind the design codes, the equations and the rules."
If you would like any further information or are interested in getting involved in Engineers Without Borders UK, please get in touch with Martin Findlay.
Engineers Without Borders UK partners with organisations and communities around the world to increase access to engineering in water and sanitation, clean energy and built environments. Through their International Placement Programme they recruit and support qualified volunteer engineers to work on 6 and 12 month opportunities based with local partner organisations.