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Institution’s President Elect advises students to ‘be flexible’

Carolyn Griffiths with a first-year mechanical engineering student at Aston University
Carolyn Griffiths with a first-year mechanical engineering student at Aston University

On a visit to Aston University, Dr Carolyn Griffiths FREng CEng FIMechE advised engineering students to have a flexible approach and gain interdisciplinary skills. In her capacity as President Elect, Carolyn was finding out about research being undertaken by mechanical engineering and biomedical students.


“Technology is moving really quickly and if a student or graduate goes into a small or medium sized company they will have to cater for all sorts of demands on them,” said Carolyn.

“Being able to adapt, knowing your limits of competence, when and how to engage others and being able to work in multi-disciplinary teams are also important skills as without them graduates will struggle no matter how academically qualified they are.

“Once in employment, it is vital to continue your professional development and the Institution can be a great support in this; being a member has helped me throughout my career.”

Dr Gareth Thomson, head of the Mechanical Engineering and Design subject group in Aston University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, said:

“We are delighted the Institution’s President Elect came along to see what we do here at Aston.

“We have a very strong commitment to being at the forefront of engineering education and aim, through our proactive approach to learning, to develop competent, confident and well-rounded engineering graduates who are not only immediately employable but passionate about growing and developing as engineers as technology and society evolves over their working lives. 

“Working with the Institution through its accreditation scheme, local networks and professional membership is a big part in helping us making this happen.”

Carolyn founded the Institution’s publicly available rail engineering training. As the former Chief Inspector of the independent organisation Rail Accident Investigation Branch, she reported to the Secretary of State for Transport on wide-ranging engineering issues, operations, organisations, human behaviour and national and international standards and policies".

Carolyn is firmly committed to furthering the Institution’s effectiveness in supporting engineers and the broader engineering community it serves. She said:

“My advice to a young person choosing a degree in mechanical engineering is don’t try to rush ahead just for the salary. The skill set that you learn, or gain, at the beginning of your career will last a lifetime. I think to build a very broad base, trying to learn as much as you can and pick up all sorts of interdisciplinary skills at the early stage when people are more sympathetic to your wanting and needing to learn is very, very important.”

She praised the active learning approach to employment offered at the university:

“This approach is not just important, it’s essential for when you go out into the workplace. There’s a lot of talk about being ‘employment ready’. No graduate will be fully ‘employment ready’ but with the active learning approach you are learning and gaining the skills you need, working as a project team member, working across disciplines, understanding time pressures and budget pressures, and if you have all of these under your belt when you go into your first employment, it’s a real coup and you will be more ‘employment ready’ than you would otherwise be.”

Carolyn Griffiths will shortly become President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Her role with the Institution has included founding the periodic International Rail Accident Investigation Conference, attended by international delegates. She is a member of the trustee board, former chairman and member of the Railway Division Board and former chairman of the International Strategy Board.

In addition, she is a board member of Engineering Council and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, has served as a governor of Imperial College, and has an honorary degree from Cranfield University for her work in the railway industry. She is currently a non-executive director for Irish Rail.  


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