NCE at 50 | Editor’s comment

NCE has been a constant companion for me through my career after I was given my first copy while on work experience with a small civil engineering consultancy firm when I was 14.

Claire Smith, NCE editor

When I was 20, I became a student member of the ICE and started to get my own copy and found my first three jobs after graduation through its recruitment pages. It was in NCE too that I had my first article as a construction journalist published – at which point I never thought I’d end up as editor.

Speaking to many people at all levels across the industry while we were preparing the content for this supplement brought out other stories of NCE's influence and how it has been a key source of information throughout people’s careers. And that is exactly what NCE set out to do 50 years ago – provide civil engineers with timely information about best practice and industry developments – and it still does today.

Rapid change over last 25 years

Some of the issues we report on are also the same – such as getting to the bottom of construction failures – others, such as the drive to carbon net zero, are new. The sector has undergone rapid change since NCE’s 25th anniversary supplement, which made interesting predictions about the future. The sector is likely to undergo further evolution before the magazine reaches its 100th anniversary. 

Nonetheless, we have worked with industry partners to look at what the future holds across key sectors and consider the challenges we have yet to fully face. I would like to thank all the firms which have joined with us to mark NCE’s 50th anniversary and which have helped us to make this supplement possible.

In addition to providing critical information for civil engineers, 50 years of NCE has also created a family from all the people who have worked on the magazine over the years. Through working with the past editors and former staff to bring this supplement together, the impact NCE has had on those people’s career has also become very clear to me.

Insight into what goes wrong

In our industry timeline section, we bring to life the key moments in terms of engineering failure that marked each editor's time leading the magazine. It was delivering clear insight into what went wrong in the lead up to these incidents that helped position NCE as a leading voice in the industry. The most striking thing I noted in editing those pages is how failure during the construction phase has become rare, yet infrastructure is still dogged by failure in use which highlights the ongoing challenge of predicting asset performance. This is something that civil engineers will have to improve on in the coming decades as predicting resilience to climate change is adding a new burden to our infrastructure. 

Refreshingly, what has changed for the better is the gender diversity that now exists and that is growing in the industry. There is also the focus on mental health and wellbeing that extends well beyond the basics of safety on site. When I graduated 25 years ago there were few female role models, so it was a joy to chair the round table for this supplement where we achieved gender balance despite the seniority of those on the guest list. 

I’m hopeful that the problem-solving skills of civil engineers will deliver many positive stories for future NCE anniversaries and create an industry that offers an attractive career path for a broad range of people.

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