As is the case with any profession, gaining the most out of your career in engineering requires diligence, persistence and hard work; a preparedness to undertake new challenges and a clear sense of career goals and objectives.
One aspect of this which cannot be understated, however, is continuing professional development (CPD). This is not only mandatory for Chartered Status as an engineer but in fact helps you to maintain an up-to-date knowledge of processes, technology and legislation.
Indeed, courtesy of a number of factors, the importance of CPD is growing. With engineers in Australia enjoying a strong reputation internationally, opportunities in overseas markets in places such as Asia and the Middle East are growing – requiring skills in terms of working in an international environment in cross-cultural teams. Back home, larger and more complex projects require increasingly greater skills in areas such as risk management, project management and stakeholder management. Models of project delivery and procurement are changing and evolving as are technical standards. Technologies such as BIM require new skills. Firms looking for new leaders, meanwhile, are demanding not just technical skills but also a strong sense of commercial acumen.
Ben Leaver, Executive General Manager Commercial Services at Engineers Australia, says the degree of change cannot be understated. From a global perspective, Leaver points to the example of Ford, which has gone from making cars in Australia to using Australia as a design centre. Mining related services, as well, is another area where Leaver says Australia has become known as a centre of expertise.
“Engineering has always been a global profession,” Leaver said.
“The big design firms can operate across time zones, handballing a job from Sydney to Johannesburg to Santiago and back to Sydney as the planet rotates and we start and finish our local workdays. Even within our own borders, the workforce is becoming more and more multicultural. Over 57 percent of the local workforce is born overseas and there is a continued trend for the skilled migration program to act as a major source of new talent.”
“The skills that engineers need increasingly expand beyond the traditional requirement of application of engineering principles. Employers need their people to also work well in teams, communicate effectively with people who speak different languages, and to service client needs.”
Even within the domestic scene, Leaver says change is afoot. A more stable pipeline of projects in the post mining era will precipitate lower levels of reliance upon foreign workers and greater levels of investment on the part of employers in terms of skills development with respect to young engineers, he said. Growing use of technology and in particular BIM are driving a need to upgrade skills in these areas, he adds - albeit with the industry needing greater standardisation as to how BIM is in fact used.
Benefits of CPD cannot be understated. From a technical standpoint, staying on top of current methods, rules and innovation helps to position you as an indispensable member of project teams as well as to deliver the best possible outcomes to clients. Interaction with tutors and peers can stimulate new ideas and fresh perspectives on challenges you may be facing within your current role. Development of non-technical skills in areas such as bid writing or negotiation can help you to position yourself as a leader within your firm. Finally, there are benefits in terms of growing and expanding your professional network, which in turn can unlock opportunities for new forms of collaboration or partnership.
Leaver says that sustained CPD effort will help to ensure that you are on top of developments in engineering methods, technology, practices and regulation and will give you greater levels of agility from which to move into different areas as market needs change.
CPD was also useful in terms of developing skills in areas which may not be covered in detail at universities, he said. These include skills in areas such as business management, project management, workplace communication, client relationship building and cultural awareness.
When pursuing a career in engineering, a number of strategies are necessary.
In order to keep abreast of developments and opportunities and to position yourself as a leader, a sound program of continuing professional development represents a critical part of this journey.