OX14 Learning Partnership Bridge Building with MJA consulting 


On the morning of Tuesday January 30th 45 students across 5 schools gathered at Abingdon to take part in the inaugural OX14 Learning Partnership Bridge Building competition with local firm MJA consulting. The aim of the day was to introduce year 9 students to what Civil Engineering is as a profession, talk about the differing career paths to becoming a civil engineer including the post 16 B-Tech route, the post 18 apprenticeship route along with the various graduate routes. 


Having covered these areas the fun began. Colleagues from MJA consulting talked to the students, who had been organised into mixed school teams of about 6 through the challenge. The task involved groups working in teams to design a bridge that spanned 1m across 2 desks. In the time available they had to build the lightest, strongest bridge they could, using only A4 paper, sticky tape and string. MJA consulting brought 8 colleagues at various different stages of their career, ranging from recently leaving school to graduates. Each of them worked with a team of year 9 students to fulfill the task. By way of an introduction MJA went through some key aspects of bridge design along with the importance of aesthetics and cost. Each group had a 30 minute planning stage, were given feedback on their design and then had 40 minutes to build the bridge. This is where the skills of teamwork, collaboration and creativity were fully on show. Dialogue between students from different schools and also between students and colleagues from MJA consultancy was focussed, positive and mutually beneficial. Each team created a unique design of the bridge with the winning bridge being able to withstand >10kg of weight.


The event showcased the numerous benefits of working in partnership. School students worked with a diverse group of peers to solve a problem, developing workplace skills and applying what they had learnt in subjects like maths, physics, geography and DT to a real world problem. They could also converse with peers a few years older than them about both the challenge but also their route to employment. In addition MJA commented on how beneficial it was for some of their employees to work with and support the learning of students, developing skills of communication and leadership. All in all the event was a huge success. 100% felt happy or extremely happy about the event, while 100% would recommend the event to a friend and 100% gave it 4 or 5 stars out of 5. 72% mentioned team work or meeting new people as being something they enjoyed about the day. While quotes included the best bits being ‘Getting to know people and working together’ and ‘Being able to learn from our mistakes, being able to explore more.’ Finally, 93% had learnt more about civil engineering at the end of the event while almost half were interested in exploring civil engineering as a career path. 

The event highlighted the enormous benefits that can be gained when commercial organizations and schools work together. MJA were delighted to have the ability to raise the profile of their industry and business at the local level, while working in partnership meant there was a greater diversity of young people involved thus mirroring the world of work. It is a model that can be used and replicated across many industries and many partnership programs adding an invaluable practical element to any schools careers provision and partnership program, as well as offering an understanding to young people of the various routes there are to a meaningful career. We certainly hope this event becomes a regular occurrence in our partnership calendar and a big thanks to partnership colleagues for organising it, MJA consulting for setting it up and providing the expertise and partner students and colleagues from Fitzharrys School, Larkmead School, St Helens and St Katharine School and Aureus School for taking part.