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Inspire the next generation, urges new CIBSE president

Inspiring and supporting the next generation of engineers will help society solve the big technical and scientific challenges of today and tomorrow, Kevin Mitchell, incoming president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) said in his presidential address.

'Research shows that the most talented young people - those who have a choice of profession - are increasingly drawn to careers where they believe their work will have a positive impact on the world. I would argue that there are few careers that offer more opportunity to deliver real change than that of a Building Services Engineer,' Mr Mitchell said.

'If we can inspire people to join us – people from a range of backgrounds who reflect the communities we serve – if we can do that, our ability to problem solve and innovate will increase exponentially'.

Mr Mitchell highlighted climate change, which he described as a “looming disaster”, as one issue needing an urgent response. He said that the current generation of engineers must support, equip and inspire the next generation of engineers and be by their side every step of the way to respond to this impending threat.

Designing buildings to deal with Covid-19 and other potential pandemics is another, requiring the next generation to challenge current thinking in order to produce buildings to support society and help communities develop, grow and thrive.

'Healthy and resilient buildings have never mattered more. And not just to deal with Covid, but to manage the next threat – whatever and whenever that might be,' he said.

Mr Mitchell said that underlying his response to all the issues important to him is the need to inspire people more people to become engineers and work on finding solutions.

He said the theme was dear to him because throughout his career he had been lucky enough to be surrounded by 'brilliantly supportive and inspiring people that make up the CIBSE community'.  He described it as an eclectic community, which he said was a real bonus: 'It meant I could learn from and be inspired by engineers of all kinds – from academics, researchers and manufacturers, and even a journalist or two'' he said.

Mr Mitchell finished his address with a rallying cry. 'Make no mistake. There are mountains to climb and the journey ahead will not be easy. We need the next generation to lead the way, but our expectations can weigh heavily on young shoulders. That’s why we must be by their side to support and inspire them. Every step of the way'.

Mr Mitchell's presidential year coincides with CIBSE's 125th anniversary, so it is appropriate that his 'Inspire the next generation' presidential theme has also been adopted by CIBSE as its anniversary theme.

In support of the theme, Mr Mitchell has created two overarching goals for the coming year, to pay forward support received to the next generation and to share how building services engineers are key in the transition to net zero and in fighting climate change. Provide a framework for achieving these goals, Mr Mitchellhas laid out five challenges which will be developed throughout the coming year.

The challenges are the spark – rather than a rule. I want them to be inclusive, flexible, memorable, celebratory, and for them to accessible for organisations, individuals, networks, regions and groups. And I want them to be shared as widely as possible to inspire others.”

Kevin Mitchell succeeds Kevin Kelly as CIBSE president and will be in turn succeeded by Adrian Catchpole, CIBSE president elect. The presidential address was delivered on 5 May at the Royal Society in London and online. It is available to watch at https://www.cibse.org/about-cibse/governance/cibse-president-2021-22/presidential-addresses

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