Using the power of football to build bridges

ACE’s Claire Clifford sings the praises of a new project connecting football and STEM education.

ACE’s Claire Clifford sings the praises of a new project connecting football and STEM education.

I was delighted to attend the recent launch of a new initiative linking the worlds of football, education and STEM, at Queens Park Rangers in London.

The Fest Hub is a relatively new organisation founded by former Charlton Athletic academy footballer turned civil engineer, Emmanuel Afolabi. 

It aims to showcase our industry as a career destination for those who unfortunately don’t make it as professional footballers and elite athletes.

Emmanuel, who works for ACE member Ramboll in his nine-to-five, introduced me to his project a couple of months ago. 

From our first discussion, his passion for making a difference to the built environment talent pool and his drive to provide sustainable career options to those who may not have previously considered engineering as an alternative career option, shone through.

We have a clear skills shortage with a need to increase skills associated with communication, influencing, time management, and flexibility alongside a problem-solving mindset. 

With only two in every 30 footballing academy students going on to play football professionally, it is vital that transferable skills are gained. Matching these valuable skills with the opportunity to develop an alternative lifelong career is a win-win for all involved.

At the launch of the first Club Fest academy class at QPR, I had the privilege of joining the team and supporting The Fest Hub to deliver the session. 

The day was spent highlighting over 300 jobs within our industry, different routes into training and development, and the amazing impact our sector has for local communities around the globe.

The football academy boys also took part in practical interactive activity, designing and building a bridge, while considering cost management and feasibility. 

It was brilliant to see the team come together in a new environment to test their problem-solving skills and teamwork. It was clear that their team-working worked for them both on and off the pitch.

Later this month the squad is off to see construction in action and visit one of the largest built environment projects out there, Old Oak Common and HS2.

The Fest Hub team are looking to broaden support from the industry and seeking partners of all shapes and sizes to become involved

If you’re interested in showcasing your organisation, and the projects and programmes you are working on, or can facilitate site visits, it would be hugely welcome. 

As with all initiatives of this kind, they are also looking for partnerships to support them to grow and increase their impact.

If you’d like to find out more about Fest Hub, please do visit their website, or follow them on social media.

Claire Clifford is director of people, skills and culture at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email roconnor@infrastructure-intelligence.com.