Wrexham Glyndwr University Civil Engineering graduate explores the industry’s digital future at special online event

The challenges of digital progression in construction have been explored by a Wrexham Glyndwr University graduate during a special event held by the industry’s leading organisation.

Jack Port, who secured a BSc in Civil Engineering at Glyndwr, was invited to discuss his research at a special event run by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

During the event Jack – who combined his studies at Glyndwr with a role at international engineering professional services consultancy WSP – discussed the ways in which technology is shaping modern-day construction.

He made his presentation as part of a panel of industry professionals from across Wales – as well as the outgoing ICE President Paul Sheffield CBE, who was making his second ‘virtual’ visit to North Wales.

Jack said: “This was a big surprise was very grateful to be asked to be a contributor - alongside my fellow presenters and the President of my professional association.

“The opportunity to present and have my research discussed in front of a forum of my peers and fellow professionals will be something I will not forget.

“Even allowing for the present-day challenges of finding a new working norm during the global pandemic and with the event taking place using digital video technology, I am pleased that I have been able to apply the skills and confidence that I developed during my studies at Glyndwr University to be able to contribute towards the debate via video - as confidently as I could be in person.”

The research which Jack presented examines if current technological terminology used in the construction industry affects the way people react to new and high-tech working methods.

He added: “The presentation discussed my research into one of the challenges faced by the Welsh civil engineering and construction industry when adapting to digital progression.

“It sought to ask - ‘are the terms and acronyms we use to refer to technology important when we try to get industries and people to adopt more technological ways of working?’

“This formed part of a structured debate on the Tensions of technology in the infrastructure industry.”

The digital nature of the event – which, like many during the current pandemic, was hosted online – helped to demonstrate the timeliness of Jack’s research.

He added: “Within today's construction industry, the continued digitalisation of the workplace, along with the adoption of technology, is unavoidable and must not be feared.

“We must always make sure that technology is right for the work we do and that it helps us to work, live and socialise smarter, efficiently and effectively.

“As we all have seen from our experiences with the current pandemic, and the changes following the wide uptake of video communication and remote working technology, this can transform the way we work, gain environmental benefits and maximise public safety - whilst maintaining face to face social interaction.

“As a Civil Engineering professional at WSP and working within today's construction industry, I appreciate that it is important to understand how tomorrow’s trends will reshape how we live, and what effect climate, technology and population will all have on our day-to-day life.

“It is these elements that will enable us to move forward, post-Covid, and get our economy going again, whilst also providing the right infrastructure our society needs to be future-ready.

“In the future I think it would be wrong of us to revert to some of our previous ways of working.

“Using technology in the delivery of construction projects has removed the need for some travel between locations which has overall helped the industry in finding ways to reduce our wider carbon footprint, while also improving the well-being and mental health of people by improving work-life balance.”

Jack’s presentation was watched by Wrexham Glyndwr University lecturer in the Built Environment, Louise Duff, who said: “We have been honoured to welcome the ICE President to Wrexham Glyndwr University regularly over the past few years – and while, sadly, current public health restrictions meant such a visit was not possible this year, it was great to see Jack present his research alongside the President at this special event.

“Jack’s work has shown just how technology and digitalisation can transform construction – and ensure the industry remains at the cutting edge of 21st century developments.”

Following the event Mr Sheffield – who has now been succeeded as ICE President by WSP Executive Director Rachel Skinner - had some encouraging words for Welsh engineers, academics and industry specialists. He re-iterated that – despite the current crisis - there are opportunities for the engineering industry to help the economy recover.

He added: “The key message that came out of that debate was that new technologies must be embraced. Technology must be with the way forward.”

And Keith Jones, the Director ICE of Wales Cymru said:We were delighted to welcome the ICE President to Wales to meet and talk to Welsh infrastructure industry representatives and to talk to a number of our young engineers in their early careers and we were particularly happy to have a student representative from Wrexham Glyndŵr University on one of the panels.”

Jack – who graduated from Glyndwr this year – added: “Studying at Wrexham Glyndwr University has been a thoroughly enjoyable, challenging and different experience.

“The lecturers have been supportive and helpful throughout and they have provided a variety of learning experiences based on their academic and industrial knowledge, which is invaluable.

“Overall, I graduate feeling a much more confident person and professional who is better able to continue progressing a career in my chosen industry, while also gaining an Industry recognised academic qualification that contributes toward me achieving the Institution of Civil Engineers’ professionally-recognised Incorporated Engineer status.”