If the engineering profession is looking for a source of inspiration to encourage more young people to enter the industry, then they could not have written a better story than that of Garrett Bray, Australia’s Young Professional Engineer of the Year.
Bray, a senior structural engineer specialising in the design of bridge infrastructure and specialist structures at boutique consulting firm BG&E, graduated only five years ago yet has already worked on projects from Tanzania to Japan, won an MBA scholarship and spearheaded CSR and engineering aid initiatives across Australia and beyond. This past year has been especially busy.
“I was pretty proud to get through the first trimester of this year,” said Bray. “I had won a BHP MBA Scholarship which required me to take on a full time study load on top of full time work. In addition to this a small group of us at BG&E also managed to plan and deliver a pro bono construction project of four bridges in Tanzania in that time and the FutureNet committee I chair had delivered two great events for our young professional members.”
As the co-founder and current member of the BG&E Corporate Social Responsibility committee, Bray has overseen the inception of a raft of new CSR initiatives for the firm which have served to benefit communities locally and around the world. BG&E is now a sponsor of Engineering Aid Australia’s Indigenous Summer Camp and Bray has been personally involved in promoting engineering careers amongst participants of the program.
He believes the future for young people who pick engineering as a profession is bright.
“I think the engineering profession, almost by definition, will always have an exciting future. The task of taking on old and new problems and finding solutions means that engineering is a driver of innovation, productivity and growth,” he said. “The challenges are to ensure knowledge transfer and rapid development of Gen X & Y engineers as the baby boomers retire, and combat the decrease in our international competitiveness, driven by the high Australian dollar, with world class engineering education, maintaining a culture of strong work ethic and focus on productivity.”
Bray practises what he preaches, as evidenced by his own strong work ethic.
He was selected by BG&E and Consult Australia to represent Australia in the Japanese Young Professional Exchange program in 2012, which is run by the Association for Japanese Consulting Engineers (AJCE). As part of this program, Bray travelled to Sendai, Japan to work with Chodai, a renowned Japanese bridge design firm for three weeks and participated in a number of technical/industry practices and cultural activities.
Travelling overseas has certainly inspired the young engineer – inspiration that he would love to bring back to his home city of Perth.
“I’d love to be involved in the design of a large scale iconic suspension or cable stayed bridge project, ideally in Perth as a local defining landmark. Travelling overseas and experiencing such awe-inspiring infrastructure such as the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, the Rainbow bridge in Tokyo and the Puente del Alamillo in Seville never fails to excite and inspire me about engineering,” he said.
“I have also been shown in Norway the development of offshore floating wind turbines – an exciting new sustainable technology project which I view as potentially having an enormously positive contribution to society.”
It is in the field of bridge engineering where he seems to be making his greatest mark thus far. In his short career, he has held significant design roles on a range of bridge projects, including the superstructure detailed design on the 225 metre long, seven span bridge over Swan River as part of the Reid Highway Extension project and lead structural engineer of a 120 metre long bridge near Onslow for access to the Wheatstone LNG project.
Over the last year, he has been part of a small team behind the design of the LNG and LPG tanks for the Ichthys Project in Darwin, currently under construction; carried out bridge design for the massive Gateway WA Perth Airport and freight access project and soon he will join the Alliance working on the new underground busport as part of the fantastic Perth City Link Project.
It is an impressive list of projects but one cannot help return to Bray’s promotion of the engineering profession through his community efforts.
“I am working with a terrific team of Engineers Without Borders members to develop a pro bono clearing house,” he said. “The aim to coordinate, promote and record pro bono engineering services, similar in concept to the pro bono law organisation PILCH in the east coast.”
He is certainly not resting on his laurels as his career progresses and, as his MBA comes to an end, is looking at how lessons learned from other academic disciplines can be applied in an innovative way to engineering.
“I have found the field of economics particularly interesting and a natural match with engineering in its quest to understand problems and develop solutions,” he said. “I would be interested in exploring the potential benefits that engineering and economics knowledge can bring to the future development of the built environment.”
Of course, his CSR work will remain a high priority.
“I hope to develop the space for pro bono work by engineers,” he said. “Engineers contribute naturally through their jobs but are also the gateholders to knowledge that can dramatically assist communities and organisations that don’t have the means to pay for it. I believe developing this side to the engineering industry has many benefits including attraction of young talent and increased status for the profession.”
The future of the engineering profession would certainly appear to be in good hands.