International Women in Engineering Day 2018

News

Tomorrow, 23rd June 2018, is International Women in Engineering Day and takes place on this date every year. 

It is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses on the variety of career opportunities which are available for women to move into.  The idea of the day is to celebrate the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world.

What a lot of people don't know is that less than 11% of the engineering sector in the UK is made up of women and with a large skills gap and the need for a more diverse workforce, it has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering and by supporting International Women in Engineering Day you are helping.

Women in Engineering

There was a huge success with the level of engagement on websites, Twitter and the official hashtag, #INWED17, which received over 34,000 impressions on the actual day alone.

This year the hashtag is #RaisingTheBar (as well as #INWED18) with the aim to raise the awareness of the day even more than last year.

Like many other engineering companies HICSE has a familiar historically-skewed demographic, but we are making good progress and wholeheartedly support the WES initiatives. To recognise the day (and the challenges) we have spoken to a couple of our female engineers and asked them to write a bit about themselves and being an engineer in such a male dominated environment. 

Women in Engineering

The first one is Mel Sutcliffe's article who is currently a Test Engineer at HICSE:

My first job in the IT Industry was working on an IT Help Desk – an experience I’m sure lots of people in this industry will be familiar with. Spending a couple of years in this type of (largely thankless) support role is something of a rite of passage for many - and inevitably, it’s made me much more sympathetic towards the voice at the end of phone when I’m calling any kind of Help Desk or Call Centre! At this point in my career, I was working with a fairly equal mix of men and women.

Having paid my dues on the Help Desk, I moved into the Test Department of the same company, and qualified as a Test Engineer. I subsequently took increasingly senior jobs with different companies, and initially didn’t notice the ratio of men to women changing. However, the more technical my role became, the less women I encountered in the workforce. Eventually, I found myself working as a Senior Test Engineer in a company which consisted of 44 men, and me - the only woman! Soon after starting, I was taken aside and offered the option of having one of the two toilets on my floor assigned exclusively to me. I was tempted to ask them to paint the walls of ‘my’ toilet pink, and hang pictures of frolicking kittens (in tiaras) on the walls, but instead I declined their kind offer, and continued to share the somewhat limited facilities equally with the rest of the workforce. I sometimes dream of that little pink palace I could have created for myself…

I’ve continued to work in environments which consist mainly of men; I previously had a team of all male Test Engineers working for me, and my current department comprises 11 men and just 1 woman – me!

Writing this article has made me question how and why I’ve stayed the course, when other women haven’t; what have I done, or what have I got? I’d love to end this piece with some fantastic moment of self-realisation – Eureka! I’ve found the holy grail of female equality - but I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you on that one... I don’t know why I’m sitting in a room with 11 men and no other women – we’re as intelligent, driven and determined as men, but the numbers simply don’t add up.

I hope one day that the ratio of men to women in the IT industry will become more equal, but I’m afraid that goal seems to be a very long way off at the moment.

Women in Engineering

The second article comes from the HICSE Head of Company Assurance:

How I managed to have it all – just not all at the same time!

Most of the people I work with have very similar back stories. They left school, went to university, graduated and started full time work. As graduates the one thing they had in common was that the jobs they went into were a stepping stone to better things. They had Prospects!

At the same age I had left school with no plan, direction or ambition and had three children in four years. This kept me busy for a while. Had my partner been a millionaire I would probably had a few more children and continued to aimlessly potter on. That wasn’t the case so given that children grow out of their clothes and shoes and require food and shelter on a regular basis it became apparent that paid work would have to come into the equation somewhere along the line. So paid work I did! Over the years I pulled pints, flipped burgers, stacked shelves, cleaned things, delivered free papers and sold coffee over the phone. The one thing all these jobs had in common was that they could be fitted in round the children and they paid, albeit badly given that this was before the minimum wage came along.

Fast Forward: I’m broke, shattered and bored. Also older and wiser. There’s no shame in being poor but it’s no picnic either. I decided I wanted to change things so did some research. It seemed that anything to do with computers was the way to go. As I had never even touched a computer at that point I decided to go to an open evening at the local college to find out about evening classes with the vague idea that if I could find out how to use a word processor it might be a Good Thing. Judging by the hourly rates quoted in the Sits Vac columns of the time it would certainly be a way of earning a lot more money.

I went along to the open evening and met the person who would be my tutor for the next two years while I completed a full time HND in Business and Information Technology. Quite how I went from finding out about learning a skill that would pay at evening classes to signing up to become a full time mature student for two years is probably a whole book in itself but without the guidance and support I received that evening it would never have happened. I couldn’t see it happening when I signed up for the course but two years later I walked out of college with an HND and the confidence to sign up for a further year of study – a conversion course leading to a BSc in European Software Engineering.

The new course involved a term a term each at an English, Irish and French university. After I had spent the first 12 weeks driving up to Huddersfield on a Sunday night and back home on a Friday I was ready to quit! The family, children included, spent the fortnight’s Christmas holiday giving me ‘pep talks’. Mainly of the JFDI variety!

Early the next January the children and I loaded as many of our possessions as would fit into my battered Skoda and boarded a ferry to Ireland to spend three months in Cork – me at college and the children at school. It did us all the world of good and we got on the ferry to come back to England in a distinctly tearful mood.

The scene above repeated itself for the final term of the course, this time France. A condition of starting the course modules in any location was passing all those at the end of the previous term I had scraped through (just) at Huddersfield but did much better in Cork. The third term in France was the decider but when I put the last full stop on the last exam paper I couldn’t have cared less about the end result – I had stayed the course! (I passed.)

A big reality check followed on returning to England. I had a brand new shiny degree but now had to decide what to do with it. The HND and degree course timetables gave me the same long holidays as the children. I couldn’t possible hold down a full time job during the school holidays could I?? Think again. Plenty of other people were doing just that – how did they do it? I did some more research, worked it out and went to an agency. They found me a full time job as a Technical Assistant for six months. Four months in I was offered a permanent position which I declined. My long-suffering (they must have been – I was there for 13 years in the end) employers asked why. I explained that I had left one thing off my CV when applying to the agency – my degree. My reasoning at the time was that if the childcare thing didn’t work out I wouldn’t have a blot on my record – or rather my hard-won shiny degree. I figures I would get round to using it eventually but it might have to wait.

Much to my surprise instead of dismissing me as one of the terminally faint hearted my employers offered to sign me up for their graduate trainee programme. I said ‘Yes please!’ I had a riot! I was never bored at work, I learned a lot, I got promoted a lot, I traveled and I met many interesting people.

Fast Forward 13 years: All good things come to an end. The company I was working for was taken over by a much larger company and when voluntary redundancy was put on the table I was one of the takers. Walking out of the place for the last time without a job to go to was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. However, the week before I left I had attended an interview at a very small company – headcount 40 – and the only ray of hope was a second interview the following Monday. I got the job!

Fast Forward 7 years: Today I am Head of Company Assurance for Hitachi Information Control Systems (Europe) Ltd (HICSE), the new name of the small company I went to work for, following its acquisition by Hitachi. My youngest child is 30 and I have a 14 year old granddaughter. I have learnt a lot over the course of the years, the most important things being;-

  1. It is NEVER too late to do anything. There are eighty year olds (and older) running marathons!
  2. You can have it all but probably not at the same time. The hard part for me was working out what ‘it’ was. ‘It’ is different for all of us. Step 2 is working out the ‘when’.
  3. Other people’s opinions are nice to have if good and awful if bad. Don’t ignore either but learn to be your own best critic. If I had listened to other people all those years ago when they said I was crazy to consider going back to college ‘at your age’ I probably would still be broke, bored and exhausted!

If you would like to find out more information about the day, please visit www.inwed.org.uk and keep an eye on all social media tomorrow where you will find a lot activity going on

(22/06/2018)

Classic Car Winter Maintenance

News

 

Written by Stephen Hawkins, HICSE Senior Test Engineer

This winter, whilst everyone else was staying in the warm and dry, avoiding the cold weather, I was doing some major work on my classic car, in a barn/workshop on a windswept hill, in the Cotswolds.

 One of the major issues that was spoiling my enjoyment of my 'classic' 1975 Scimitar SE5a, was that the gearbox was jumping out of 2nd (sometimes with a disconcerting bang!) when the throttle was feathered.  Whilst this was not an issue when on a run, it was a pain in the town.  Not only that, but everywhere I parked the Scimitar, it left its calling card - oil.  In my case both transmission oil and engine oil.  My driveway was suffering and you could 'smell it' on a warm day.  Although, to be fair, the oil was doing an excellent job of preserving the chassis!

 However, something had to be done.  This sort of thing takes planning, a working gearbox had to be sourced.  This was accomplished during the previous August where a working, oil tight, gearbox was pulled from a wreck, one weekend, for the princely sum of £100, including propeller shaft and all other linkages and fittings (the Propeller shaft was later sold to a needy Scimitar owner in Finland, for a very small consideration).

 So then came the big day in early December, after all connections and mounts had been undone and the bonnet removed, to pull the engine and gearbox out of the car.  A two man operation, to do it safely.  The old iron Ford Essex V6 and gearbox are a heavy old lump, when connected together.

classic car

 The engine was then split from the gearbox, where it became obvious that a new clutch would be required, as bits of spring from the friction plate, dropped out of the bell housing.

 The engine was always fine, with good compression and good oil pressure.  So the plan was to just flush out all the waterways, replace the core plugs, and rear main seal.  Then just service it, paint it, and pop it back in.  Simples!

Classic Car

 The 'new to me' gearbox, just needed a filter clean (overdrive), new oil and a clean and paint.  A messy business, but an easy one, for the budding mechanic.

Classic Car

 The engine was then painted a rather fetching shade of green, and then re-attached to the gearbox, with the new clutch, ready to go back in.

Classic Car

The engine bay was then cleaned up, including the scraping off of all the congealed oil and dirt as far as I could reach.  It became obvious that a new radiator was required, along with all new pipe-work for the cooling system, with all new stainless jubilee clips (ouch!).  Also, there are a lot of panels in the engine bay, in front of the engine, that duct the air to the radiator, all these were powder coated and replaced where necessary.  As a bonus, we managed to flush out the heater matrix, which had never, in my experience, allowed water through, to get the heater working again.

 As you can imagine, it was some months before I was ready to put the engine back in, with 'new to me' tubular header pipes for the exhausts.  But in it went, if rather gingerly. 

Classic Car

 After reconnecting all the mounts, electrics, pipes (water and fuel), etc, it was soon time to try the restart.  This was a surprisingly underwhelming affair, as it started on the second try.  So after a thorough warm up, bleed and checking that the cooling fan came on when the engine was hot, we were done.

Classic Car

 Now all I had to do was wait.........The law has changed this year (20th May 2018), as this car is now well over 40 years old, it no longer requires an MOT.  Yes, you heard right, not only is it free tax, as a Classic Car, but an MOT is now only voluntary and can be avoided by declaring the car as VHI (Vehicle of Historic Interest), a tick box on the new tax form.  However, I will be having the car inspected by a third party at some point this year, just for my peace of mind, and to get my next list of jobs to do.

(01/06/2018)

International Women’s Day 2018

News

Today (Thursday 8th March 2018) is International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is #PressForProgress.  The aim is to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

This day is a global day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women which started in 1908.  In 1908 there was a critical debate amongst women and their oppression and inequality was driving women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change.  15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. 

international women's day

World-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist, Gloria Steinem once said ‘The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights’.  Because of what Gloria said, International Women’s Day is about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action.

Four colours now signify International Women’s Day and all have their own meaning:

  • Purple – Signifies justice and dignity
  • Green – Symbolises hope
  • White – Represents purity however it is no longer used
  • Yellow – Represents ‘new dawn’ which is commonly used to signify a second wave of feminism

international women's day

On the day before World War 1 campaigning for peace, Russian women recognised their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913 and following discussions, the day was transferred to the 8th March and has stayed this date ever since.

To the present and future, International Women’s Day has now become an official holiday in a lot of countries, such as Afghanistan, Cuba, China (for women only), Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam to name a few.  In some countries, International Women’s Day has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day.

We were able to download for #PressForProgress selfie cards which HICSE colleagues had a look through and chose their favourite one out of the collection to then have their photograph taken and for them to be uploaded onto social media with the hashtag #PressForProgress.

international women's day

If you would like to find out more about International Women’s Day, visit www.internationalwomensday.com #PressForProgress

(08/03/2018)

Birmingham Proof House ARS Simulator

News

 

The Automatic Route Setting (ARS) capable version of the TREsim Simulator for the Birmingham Proof House workstation has been successfully delivered to the West Midlands Signalling Centre (WMSC) in Saltley (Birmingham).

Birmingham

The Contract, variously referred to as Birmingham Proof House, or Birmingham New Street (BNS) Phase 6, or more snappily as BNS Ph 6, is with Siemens Rail Automation. A Non-ARS version of the simulator has previously been installed, enabling initial signaller training. The ARS enabled Simulator will now allow Network Rail Operations to progress Signaller Training in the ARS aspects prior to commissioning of the TREsa ARS system for Proof House at the end of May.

Senior Data Engineer Simon Oscroft developed the system whilst establishing a positive working relationship with the technical team at Siemens, resulting in very fast turn-around of updates.

The Proof House workstation controls a very busy area fringing with Birmingham New Street and including Birmingham International Station. Simon has developed complex fringe logic to simulate the traffic in and out from BNS. Experienced Network Rail Signallers and Trainers have been impressed at the ability of the ARS system to cope with the high volume of traffic, even when running the simulator at faster than real-time.

Timescales for the development were severely condensed, but deliveries have been achieved to the original schedule without any dramas.

The Proof House TREsa is currently undergoing final formal testing in preparation for factory acceptance test on the deliverable hardware in April and subsequent site acceptance test at end of May.

Proof House will be the first TREsa system to go live at WMSC. The Cherwell Valley system will be switched on soon after once Signaller Training is completed.

(07/03/2018)

Ops in Japan

News

 

Written by Suleman Qazi

As a member of TMS Thameslink team I work very closely with our colleagues in Japan and I was honoured to receive an invitation to Visit Omika, Japan. The main purpose of the visit was to get a better understanding of the overall TMS systems and to discuss the ways and means to improve our working methodologies in order to carry out the production tasks in a more efficient manner.

During the first week, our hosts Ohta-san & Murakami-san introduced us to the wider Hitachi Omika data production team and we were provided with an opportunity to address to hundreds of people during the monthly team meeting.

We went through some exciting and extensive seminars and workshops on Traffic Management Systems in Japan and overseas. We learned about the system architecture and its applications, we were provided with tutorials and factory visits to look at their Traffic Management Systems closely and in detail. 

Omika

During the second week I ran several workshops and lectures to share the knowledge with our colleagues and to give them in depth understanding of UK railways ARS systems.

Through collaborative brain storming sessions between myself, Mizukawa-san (Researcher in Japan) and Noboru-san we managed to come up with some improvements in our working methodologies which will be implemented in our future TMS projects and will result in time and cost savings.

My third week was all about summarising our work from first two weeks and to devise a plan on how to drive the changes forward, opportunely our (HICSE) directors were in Omika as well during my third week and I was able to demonstrate my findings to them as well.

Overall I was in Japan for three weeks and over the weekends my aim was to explore Japan as much as possible. On my first weekend I went to Ueno, Tokyo with Paul Jones and we explored Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree tower.

Omika

Sensō-ji Temple Asakusa.

Omika  Omika

On my second weekend I decided to go to Tokyo again and this time Miki Morifuji was kind enough to offer me to take to Kamakura, to see breath taking Temples and shrines during the day.

Omika  Omika

And in the evening, Shimura Akitoshi and Miki Morifuji took me for an amazing dinner in Shibuya and I was stunned to see the Shibuya crossing where thousands of people are crossing the road at the same time.  It was the busiest crossing I have ever seen in my life. The next day I visited Ginza area in Tokyo, where you can easily spend your year’s salary within hours on branded clothing and accessories, certainly the most expensive shopping district I have ever seen.

During my third and last week, I was invited by senior management in Omika to attend the annual ritual of going to shrine and praying for the prosperity for Hitachi during the year.

Our colleagues in Omika are definitely amazing hosts and they arranged a farewell dinner for me.

Omika

And then came my last Friday in Japan, when I visited the Omori office for a meeting and afterwards Satoko Fujimori invited me for lunch among other colleagues.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan, it was very interesting and educational from work perspectives. Our colleagues in Omika are excellent hosts and from day one they made me feel at home and supported me all the time at work and outside work and they made sure that I learned how to use Chopsticks (which I had learnt by end of my trip).

 

I would like to extend my special thanks and gratitude to all of our colleagues in Japan, who supported me throughout and made this trip extremely valuable.

(09/02/2018)

Top Marks for New TREsim Train the Trainer Course

News

Over three days in January (9th - 11th), Mark Herron, HICSE Technical Authority and Tony Prankett, HICSE Technical Trainer, delivered the new TREsim Train the Trainer course at Network Rail's Rugby Rail Operating Centre.  The course was delivered to 5 Network Rail Trainers, including a Digital Railway Trainer.

The training course was a mix of classroom based learning on some already configures laptops so the delegates were able to follow the functionality being demonstrated.  The delegates also got to have a go on the full simulator rig taking it in turns to have a go as an Assessor and a Signaller.  All of the delegates were former Signallers.

Train the Trainer

The new course covered tasks such as starting the Simulator, Timetables, TREsim Overview, Track Menu and Actions, Signal Menu and Actions, Point Menu and Action, Train Describer Menu and Actions, Train Menu and Actions, Localised Actions and an overview of ARS (Automatic Route Setting).

 

Train the Trainer

So the delegates were able to put what they learnt from the course into practice, they were tasked with writing their own scripts to practice upcoming areas for Signaller assessment.  These included divided trains, wrong direction moves, various infrastructure failures and replaying communications for assessment purposes.

 

Overall the course was very well received with maximum marks given on the feedback sheets 

(18/01/2018)

Everest Base Camp Trek

News

Mike Allen,  HICSE Test Manager, and his wife Karen have always wanted to return to Nepal after a short trek there before they had their children, so they decided to trek to Everest Base Camp while their knees are still up to the job!

everest

Mike and Karen chose November/December as it’s out of the main season and clear weather, although getting a lot colder. Over 15 days Mike and Karen have trekked a circular route up to Gokyo lakes, the highest freshwater lakes in the world, crossing the Ngozumpo Glacier and over the daunting Cho La pass.  They have spent each night in different Tea houses, which are basically wooden huts heated by a Yak dung burning stove.  As soon as the fire burnt out (~20:00) temperature’s plummeted and everything froze solid, inside and out, so early nights were the norm. The challenge for them was although they do lots of walking, they have never been at high altitude (max 5545m) before, also they have never managed being without alcohol and meat for over 2 weeks :>(

everest

Anyhow, it all went well, great part of the world and with lovely people.  It’s amazing the weight that the Sherpas carry (more than twice their body weight), as everything in the area is carried up by man or Yak.  They altitude turned out not to be too much of an issue, although most nights they only slept for a few hours and both lost 3 or 4 KG along the way.  To keep in contact with the family, Karen got Facebook and then went a step further by opening a just giving page for Cancer Research UK and raising over £300. 

everest

If you would like to donate to Cancer Research UK, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mikekaren

(11/01/2018)

Celebrating 5 Years with Hitachi

News

 

It was 5 years ago today (20th December 2012) that the acquisition of TRE (The Railway Engineering Co.) occurred and the start of a journey within the Hitachi family.

  5 years

So many things have happened within the last 5 years.  We have opened and expanded the office our office in Derby to mobilise and deliver the Thameslink Traffic Management System as well as accommodating a number of other non-TMS projects.  In 2015 TRE was re-branded where we adopted the Hitachi brand and changed the company name to Hitachi Information Control Systems Europe Ltd (HICSE).  As we adopted the Hitachi brand, our online presence on the social media platforms and our new website, has improved significantly.  

We have seen a number of innovations in the HICSE product set which are seeing real successes, such as the recent TREsure, TREmodel and Dessan delivery projects.

5 years

Over the last 5 years, our headcount has increased by 300% which shows the success of HICSE and the huge efforts from all of the staff throughout the business.

5 years

To celebrate this milestone, a delivery of cake to each of the three offices had been arranged and enjoyed by all.

5 years

Here's to the next 5 years!

(20/12/2017)

Lights, Camera, Action!

News

Recently, HICSE has been working closely with a brand and communications company called Reggie London to create a new corporate film which can be used in the HICSE Bradford on Avon office reception and at exhibitions just to name a couple of places.

Following a couple of workshops with Reggie London and a few of the HICSE employees, Reggie put together a story board which represents Hitachi and the rail industry.

The short film is going to feature a women who just wants to travel from A to B.  She is not bothered about what is going on behind the scenes and all of the people and the technology that is working together to get her to her final destination.

Denise Watkins and Claire Connell travelled to London for a casting session to find the lucky women to appear in the HICSE film.  We saw 9 different women who did a short demonstration of what they had to offer where we managed to decide who was going to be out actress for the film.

Actress chosen, it was then time to start filming at our chosen locations.  We started filming in our Derby office using the Model Office hardware and then travelled just down the road to the East Midlands Control Centre to do some more filming there.

  

The filming then moved back down to London where our actress, Munirih, played her part.  Starting at London Bridge station then moving to the Hitachi Rail North Pole Depot in London to film the final part.

All we have to do now is wait until the New Year to see the final film once Reggie London have completed their edits and put all the shots together with the voiceover so we have something to look forward to.

(08/12/2017)

CSR in Action

News

Written by Matthew Diggle, TM Engineering Manager

Following the recent announcements about the Hitachi Corporate Social Responsibility policy I thought I'd give it a try. A while ago some friends told me about a charity that offers sailing trips to a range of groups of different ages and from varied backgrounds. They found that marine environment helped with the groups as it is unusual and so becomes a “leveller”; almost everyone is a “beginner” and so pre-existing hierarchies are broken. It also provides a sense of adventure and excitement that appeals to some (particularly young male) people who might otherwise be difficult to attract. I've sailed a bit myself and I enjoy helping people learn and develop, so I thought that this was, perhaps, something I could get involved with.

I got in touch with the charity and they offered me a place as a helper (possibly even a "responsible adult") on a five-day trip they were running as a Duke of Edinburgh Award residential course. They already had a skipper, first-mate and second-mate on board, and so I'd be third-mate, or maybe they said "third rate" I'm not sure. I also filled in the CSR form and got it approved, so the company donated two days of leave towards my time off.

It was a little daunting to head off to spend five days living with a whole group of people who I didn't know, in an unfamiliar (and quite cramped) environment, doing very different things from my usual routine. However, I needn't have worried as the other leaders were friendly and helped me settle-in before the young people arrived.

We had a group of seven young people aged 16, 17, and 18 on the trip, most of whom were working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. They had not met as a group before and many had no sailing experience. I found it interesting to watch how wary they were when they first arrived, some were quiet and shy, other full of bluster and show, but all rather uncertain about their place in the group and not sure what the next few days would hold. The other leaders, who had more experience of this sort of thing, helped everyone to get to know each other, partly by us all introducing ourselves and saying something that we knew a lot about. The skipper's specialist subject was, rather surprisingly, cows (apparently he's a vet in "real life") and mine, less surprisingly, was railway signalling. However, no one asked me anything about signalling during the rest of the trip, and as far as I know no one approached the skipper with an enquiry about animal ailments.

The boat, Morning Star, is 62 feet long and is slightly unusual in that the hull is made from concrete, but in other ways it's quite traditionally rigged and old-fashioned.

corporate social responsibility

It is actually designed to be hard to sail, so that the crew have to work together. For example hauling-in the main ropes requires two people, one “sweating” or pulling the rope and the other “tailing” or controlling it. Furthermore, most jobs require at least two ropes to be worked, so the rope teams have to co-ordinate their efforts. It’s impossible for one person to rush ahead, and in fact if they try it usually results in having to release the ropes and start again. Another challenge is the unfamiliarity of the tasks and terminology, so first of all everyone has to "learn the ropes", literally. They might all look much the same, but it is important to know which one does what and absolutely vital to know which are under tension and which are slack before untying them.

corporate social responsibility

I was impressed by the speed the young people picked up the basics of sailing the boat and the generous way they shared this knowledge if one of them was not certain what to do. By the end of the trip some of the more confident members of the group were allowed to lead activities, such as raising sails, with the leadership team merely observing and providing quiet guidance. The skipper must have thought that I'd learned a bit about the boat too, as he left me in charge as we sailed back across the Thames estuary at night, dodging big boats and sandbanks.

corporate social responsibility

The young people didn't just get involved with sailing activities, they also had to take turns with cooking and cleaning. In fact it was the challenges below decks that seemed to be more difficult for some of the crew to handle, and I had to teach one of the crew how to make instant coffee and to explain to another that “Earl Grey” is not ordinary tea. However, they all did their share without grumbling, and I was impressed that they took turns to volunteer to get up early to make breakfast, overcoming the stereotype of teenagers staying in bed.

As they left to go home it was great to see that seven individuals who had arrived five days earlier had become a tight-knit team, swapping email addresses and in some cases planning their next sailing trip together. Team building that might take several weeks in a work environment happened very quickly, and although this was an unusual environment there were certainly lessons for me to take away and apply in my normal life. For example, the leadership team had to employ different coaching, instructing, encouraging, and (at times) commanding styles, but teenagers do not, in general, put up with being patronised or bossed about so the styles we used always had to be appropriate to the situation and instructions had to be given clearly and in a manner that they could understand.

So overall, although it was physically challenging and, at times, rather uncomfortable, I really did enjoy the experience. The four leaders had to work together closely, which seemed to go well, and it was great fun to work with young people, full of energy and enthusiasm, and with a strong desire to learn new skills and fully participate in activities. In fact the only thing that didn't go well for me were the card games the young people played in the evening; the rules seemed arcane to start with and became increasingly complex as the night drew on until I didn't stand a chance of keeping up. Maybe next time I'll take a book to read instead!

corporate social responsibility

If you're interested in finding out a bit more about the boat and the charity their website is www.morningstar.org.uk and someone took some drone footage of us off the Walton on the Essex coast which you can watch on YouTube here: Morning Star Trust or by searching for "Morning Star Trust Walton".

(24/11/2017)