Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Young engineers making progress on mental health

Many building services engineers are “struggling” with stress in the face of increasing time and financial pressures, according to one of the industry’s most prominent young engineers.

Reanna Taylor, chair of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) Future Leaders group, said more engineers were now being forced to work “crazy hours” to keep on top of workloads and the additional stress and weight of responsibility were contributing to growing mental health problems.

However, the BESA group has been rolling out a programme of mental health ‘first aid’ training in a bid to get on top of the issue. This has been successfully adopted by a number of employers thanks to the availability of a free to use online ‘tool kit’ developed by the Association.

“This is a huge priority area for us,” said Ms Taylor, who is also the current holder of the CIBSE Graduate of the Year award. “Employers and colleagues need to be more vigilant so they can spot the signs when someone is really struggling. Stress levels are rising as project times become more compressed and relatively junior engineers are being given responsibility for ever larger packages of work.

“It is so important that people are trained to understand how to offer support. Often they just need to encourage the person to talk about how they are feeling,” she told a recent meeting of the CIBSE Patrons society. She explained that mental health training is one of the ‘soft’ skills being promoted by the Future Leaders group along with better communication and collaboration between professions.

Ms Taylor also told the Patrons that the industry’s record on diversity was improving.

“Women in engineering is definitely on the rise,” she said. “That is fantastic for the industry because they bring freshness, new ideas and enthusiasm. It is so important that we embrace that and give them opportunities to develop and grow.”

She told the Patrons that her own route into the industry was unusual, but having stumbled into building services engineering, “she would never move away from it now”.

17-year-old Arkwright Scholar Laurie Maddalena from Christ’s Hospital school also spoke at the meeting and thanked the Patrons for giving him financial support as he prepared to take up an engineering degree course.

He said that, while his interest was in engineering as a general discipline, he appreciated the importance of building services in delivering health, comfort and environmental benefits.


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