Atkins and Governors for Schools: Safeguarding talent for the future of engineering

Craig Kearney, one of the first Atkins governors to be placed through the industry-first Governors for Schools programme, tells us about his partnership and experience with Maes Y Morfa primary school in Llanelli, South Wales.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am currently a Practice Manager in the Transportation Business, located in Swansea office with 17 years’ experience in Highway Engineering, having joined Atkins from Swansea University. I am a highways engineer working on Local Authority and Government schemes, which range from[BJ1]  Costal Adaptation schemes at Newgate through to highway maintenance schemes. I am also the Framework Manager for a portfolio of clients under the South West and Mid Wales Regional Civil Engineering. The framework provides multi discipline professional consultancy services to Local Authorities in the region.


Why have Atkins partnered with Governors for Schools?

Governors for Schools finds, places, and supports skilled volunteers as governors and trustees on school and academy boards. They support schools across England and Wales to run effectively by finding high calibre governors to bring their skills and expertise to the table – and improve education for children.

The collaboration between Atkins and Governors for Schools is ‘first of a kind’ and we have committed to place 44 talented volunteers on 44 under-represented school boards across England and Wales by 2024. We are specifically working with primary schools, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) schools, girls’ schools, and schools in areas of deprivation.

Through our governance programme, we believe we are addressing the diversity and skills crisis that is endemic in the Engineering sector, whilst raising aspirations of children and local communities at the same time. Our governance programme will drive strategic partnerships with all the schools where we have placed governors for a minimum term of 4 years, with our Governors owning the STEM and Careers link plan for each setting.


What’s different about this scheme?

We plan to uplift education by linking each school in with the Atkins vast STEM ambassador community and subject matter experts to deliver curriculum enrichment events from panel Q&A’s, in-class presentations, immersive careers fairs and workshops with parents, as well as linking the schools in with industry days such as the Big Bang Fair, Rail Live and Highways UK. On top of that, we will open our office space not just for workplace visits, but to support the development of functional skills and integration into the wider industry as those from SEND settings transition to employment.

The long-term sustainable relationships we are creating with schools means that for the first time, Atkins can directly evidence the impact of an industry STEM programme as children move through the education system, electing preferred subjects and applying for work experience and apprenticeships with us. Our Governors are also able to identify pro bono support to schools to leave a genuine legacy in the communities we operate. This could include highways design and traffic management around a school premises, the design of sensory rooms for autistic learners or civil engineering in support of the reconstruction of a school building.


Why did you want to become a governor?

I became a school governor as I wanted to put my life experience to good use and give something back to the community and our future workforce. My skill set is related to STEM and I feel passionately that this area is underrepresented by diverse students such as girls and those from low socio-economic backgrounds. I also knew being a governor would help me develop skills in networking and strategic planning.

We now have 35 governors going through the process impacting 14,009 young people and projected to donate 26,264 voluntary hours to the STEM strategy, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.


Tell us about your school and what it’s been like as a Governor so far.

The school I am working with is Maes Y Morfa Primary School in Llanelli, South Wales, which is a primary school in my local town. The school is in a socially deprived area, with around 33% of pupils at the school being eligible for free school meals; this is much higher than the Wales average of 19%. The school identifies around 44% of pupils are on the additional needs register, which is much higher than the Wales average of 21%.

It’s early days in my relationship with the school, but we have already helped deliver a number of STEM days and I am working on a programme of STEM focussed classroom enrichment by Atkins staff over the next 4 years. I have also been involved with solving some structural issues with the school building, which I find really exciting being an engineer!

The feedback from the school and the children has been overwhelmingly positive and all are excited to see where this collaboration takes us.


What are the plans for expanding the programme across Wales?

We now look forward to building closer ties with Governors for Schools and to facilitating wider industry involvement through joint engagement with clients and the wider supply chain. With Atkins being involved in some exciting projects in Wales, such as Network Rail’s Wales and Western Framework, we’re looking forward to placing talented Governors in even more schools across the region to provide a line of sight between local communities, the infrastructure we design and the roles we invest in.

Loren Nadin, Senior Partnerships Manager (Wales) at Governors for Schools says:

“We're delighted to be placing volunteers from Atkins into school boards. We currently have over 200 vacancies on boards across Wales; we can see from the impact that Craig has already had that many more schools will benefit hugely from our partnership.”

Jess Bates, Atkins UK Governors for Schools Programme Lead says:

“We are delighted to deliver ongoing curriculum enrichment through our school governance programme and look forward to supporting the development of high quality, job-ready young people who will form part of a reliable pipeline of talent from the classroom, straight into entry-level roles within Atkins or our supply chain and on our major projects.”

Watch more on Atkins’ recent STEM outreach day at Maes Y Morfa Primary School here.

Welsh version also available here.