Former Apprentice Shares Forty Years of Industry Experience with Young Engineers on STE(A)M Competit
Updated: Oct 27
At the tender age of sixteen, Malcolm Lewer left school to become an Apprentice Carpenter with British Railways. Now a successful Possession Planning Manager at Balfour Beatty with nearly forty years of industry experience, he has been working to inspire a new generation of young people entering the workplace.
“My inspiration for volunteering as a mentor came from working with a graduate in our office,” Malcolm tells us. “When they started they bought with them a ‘buzz’ and a real motivation to work which motivate everyone else. It’s refreshing working with young people who are excited about their future and to be able to help as they start out on their careers.”
Over the last three months, Malcolm has been mentoring a team of S4 pupils from Falkirk High School as part of the EES4 competition: a bespoke science & engineering programme developed in partnership with The Engineering Development Trust, Forth Valley College and Balfour Beatty. Pupils were challenged to develop their own solutions to a real problem encountered by Balfour Beatty in their construction of the new Forth Valley College Falkirk Campus: how to maintain temperature levels in the main reception area in an innovative and energy-efficient way. Malcolm formed part of a team of volunteers from Balfour Beatty, who shared their experience and advice with the teams as they worked on producing a model, written report and verbal presentation explaining their innovative solutions.
“I was keen to grab the opportunity with both hands,” says Malcolm. “I have enjoyed the levels of enthusiasm and seeing how they develop the challenge. The one thing that strikes me the most is they are so mature! It has been great to work in a totally different environment as an outsider.”
Having been an Apprentice himself at the start of his career journey, Malcolm was perfectly-placed to offer the pupils some expert guidance about starting a career in industry as a young person today.
“I would absolutely recommend doing an Apprenticeship! It’s a recognised form of formal training which helps you get straight into work to help you decide what you want to do as a career before specialising with a degree at university. I’d also advise young people to stay with the company once they have put you through your apprenticeship training. Companies are good at rewarding loyal employees and are more likely to invest in your career and future training.”
The EES4 competition gave pupils an outstanding opportunity to spend time with experienced professionals like Malcolm. Being able to ask questions face-to-face with a positive role-model gives young people real confidence in their choices and a clear idea of where they want their careers to take them. Mentoring doesn’t just benefit the young people, however, as Malcolm was quick to point out.
“I have a developed a range of skills through mentoring young people through the EES4 programme, especially my communication skills. Despite having children of my own, working with students on a project has helped with my understanding of how young people think and communicate. I have very much enjoyed engaging with young people on this project and being able to pass on my own experience.”
The EES4 project equips young people with valuable STEM skills and a more detailed knowledge of potential STEM careers, but also with experience that will benefit them in any line of work, including teamwork, project management and critical thinking. Mentors like Malcolm are an essential part of the process, leading by example and showing young people that anything is possible.
“Nothing is insurmountable,” says Malcolm. “If you put your mind to it, you can think through any project.” The EES4 teams have certainly proved him right.
Malcolm Lewer is a Possession Planning Manager at Balfour Beatty and a Volunteer Mentor for the EES4 Competition