Image credit: BDP

Michelle McDowell leads the civil and structural engineering group at BDP, a major international practice of architects, designers, engineers and urbanists. Michelle will speak at our Academic Conference this September on the subject of the skills industry needs from Built Environment graduates  – here she briefly outlines her career, her thoughts on the Conference, and what BDP looks for when recruiting young engineers.

I graduated from Bristol University in 1984 and have been a practising engineer since then. I’ve been privileged to work on some wonderful projects during my career, including Brighton Children’s Hospital and Bridge Academy School in Hackney - the impact of these buildings on children’s lives makes me very proud. Another career highlight was receiving an MBE for services to construction, and the Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year Award.

At BDP we’re pleased to offer graduate placements, seeking out young people with enthusiasm, an interest in the wider built environment, and flexibility. As we work more internationally, language skills are also becoming very useful.

BDP offers work placements which we make as varied as possible – taking in structural analysis, sketching, design crits and site visits. We find this is a really productive process - I myself have mentored on work placements, and it showed me how to manage people and take responsibility for technical review. 

BDP is also proud to run a bursary scheme with Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, to encourage young women into engineering careers.

We are also always on the lookout for creative and proactive graduates with a strong analytical approach, who are interested in collaborative working. Many of our graduates are able to sketch and already have strong digital skills.

Beyond work placements and recruitment, we work closely with university research departments on the design of projects, particularly when we are trying to push the boundaries of design - working around topics like vibration of structures and concrete creep. Communication between industry and academia is good, but it could always be improved - perhaps by more transparency about research topics. 

I very much look forward to the forthcoming Academic Conference – I’ll be interested to make better connections with academia and to see how the curriculum is developing to address the future. BDP’s largest sector is design of education buildings, especially Higher Education – so it will be interesting to see if any of the academics work in our buildings!

Find out more about our Academic Conference and book your place here.


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