The Dyslexia in Engineering Day was inaugurated on October 9, 2020.
Speaking on a special RAC CoolingCast program, founder Steve Gill says the event was established to help change the conversation about the disorder. He hopes it will foster a more positive view of what it means to be dyslexic and working in highly technical fields such as HVAC&R.
“Let’s slightly try and shift the conversation and emphasis on this,” Gill says. “Dyslexics and neurodiverse thinking can bring a lot to a company.”
The event attracted interest from a range of industry bodies across the building engineering sector, including the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).
A series of webinars were held throughout the day to mark the event. The three panel-style sessions were respectively hosted by IET, IMI Hydronic Engineering and BESA, in collaboration with CIBSE, IET, CIPHE, Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) and London South Bank University.
The webinar speakers included former CIBSE president Andy Ford and former president of CIPHE, Tracey Richardson.
Gill, who is also Founder of World Refrigeration Day and a past president of the IOR, joined as a panellist in the first webinar and chaired the other two sessions.
Speaking on the podcast, he said he hopes the industry can move beyond the stereotypical perception of dyslexia. Instead of viewing dyslexics as people struggling with reading detailed documents or filling out detailed application forms, Gill says the focus should shift to how the industry can benefit from a neurodiverse workforce.
“The one thing I find true is that dyslexics are usually creative people – creative thinkers and problem-solvers. We learn differently, that is for sure, but we also think differently and we see the world in different ways,” he says.
“So we come up with different ways of thinking and processing information, and creative thinking is something we are in need of us a society, and in engineering of course. Because we need to stop doing exactly the same as we have been doing and we need to start thinking differently and acting differently.”
Gill, who is dyslexic himself, also referenced prominent dyslexic individuals working in the HVAC&R sector who demonstrated highly innovative problem-solving abilities, such as Ford.
“I think if more people were able to stand up and say, ‘I’ve done this or had this experience’, then shift the conversation to instead of ‘What can I do for a dyslexic?’ to ‘What can they do for me? How can they improve my bottom line?’, Gill says.
“Businesses are all about money and when I ran a business with many employees, that is what drove it. Of course, I’ll say on the podcast that it was human resources and the welfare of my staff that was paramount, it was the bottom line that was the be all and end all. And I truly believe that neurodiversity and dyslexia can really help the bottom line if they embrace the creativity and problem-solving side of it.”
You can listen to the podcast in full here.