Futures Thinking for Engineering and Engineers Australia's Continuing Professional Development Process

Article excerpt

1 OVERVIEW

By 2025, the planet will have some 8 billion people living on it, mainly living in cities situated in coastal areas. Food consumption and water demand will rise markedly. The rising demand for hydrocarbons will continue unabated, and this is linked to climate change that will provide an ongoing challenge for engineers. While the trend in developed countries is to an ageing population, there is a "youth bulge" in underdeveloped countries. There is much poverty in the underdeveloped countries, and its burden mainly falls on women. Globally, these trends will give rise to demands for higher standards of living, including new and improved physical and social infrastructure. The trends can also create the potential for conflicts (CSIS, 2006; NAE, 2005).

The protection of the environment is an area that must be an important consideration for engineers in applying the principle of sustainability to engineering developments. Engineers play a key role in the development of infrastructure, bringing products and services to market, developing information and communications technologies (ICT), and in the development of new technologies in science and medicine. With the relentless march of globalisation, engineers need to develop existing skills and embrace new skills to keep pace with the rapidly increasing demands of technology in an ever more competitive engineering world (ASCE, 2007; JSCE, 2007; NAE, 2004; 2005).

The engineering profession will have to produce engineers and leaders who are able to create a strategic vision, and who will form innovative partnerships dedicated to raising people's standards of living and solving the world's engineering and technological problems. More women, minority groups and older engineers will have to be attracted into and supported by the engineering profession to meet these challenges (CSIS, 2006).

Engineers will need to be proactively involved in giving leadership and guidance for determining public policy, and defining the research agenda on emerging technologies and in the provision and maintenance of physical and social infrastructure, new products and services. They will need to acquire the skills that allow them to operate effectively internationally in the areas of engineering teaching and practice, and in the prescription of codes, standards and regulations. Ultimately, engineers will be accredited on an international basis (ASCE, 2007; NAE, 2004; 2005).

Many engineers will operate in multidisciplinary teams to service large and complex engineering projects and systems, many offshore, requiring interdisciplinary and systems-based approaches to engineering projects and risk management. Thus, engineers will need good communication skills, be flexible in their mode of working, receptive of change, and respectful of people and cultures. The acquisition of well-developed people skills allied to problem-solving skills will be necessary along with the capability to learn the essence of the principal language used in a project. The communication skills will involve promoting the profession to the public and engineers will need to behave ethically (NAE, 2004; 2005).

The small-to-medium size enterprise (SME) sector is one of the largest employers of engineers and it requires engineers with similar skills to those engineers working in the larger enterprises. However, graduate training schemes will be required to cater for the special needs of the SME sector (RAE, 2006).

Engineering education and training will need to teach engineers how to solve social problems and how to commoditise technological innovations and processes to improve the quality of life and to diminish poverty globally; how to recreate the connections between engineering and society at large, and to acquire the tools that will achieve these objectives; and how to apply their knowledge and skills in a holistic manner that protects the environment and upholds the tenets of sustainability (RAE, 2006). …

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