Engineers are key to building a better tomorrow

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Optimistic closing session of the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference looks forward with confidence and hope.

Malani Padayachee-Saman, CEO of engineering consultancy MPAMOT in South Africa, said that she wanted to be an instrument of change for safeguarding the future of the next generation.

Speaking at the final session of the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference session on Engineering the future – Building a better tomorrow for a sustainable industry on 13 September 2022, Padayachee-Saman said that as a mother she felt this responsibility all the more keenly.

She said that the industry could not ignore the glaring inequalities in the world because the work of the engineering and construction sector had it within its power to address them. “If we are to create more role models, we need to highlight the fact that engineering is a portable skill and one that can be applied to a range of areas of work,” she said.

She also said that the industry needed to involve young professionals at all levels of the industry to bring about change. This needed to include diversity and inclusion, especially of women, to drive that change even faster.

Joining the session online, Richard Robinson, CEO for UK and Europe at Atkins SNC Lavalin, made the point that the world had seen five significant megatrends and challenges in an unprecedented short period of time which has meant that the industry has had to adapt at a pace never seen before. This creates specific challenges for engineering and construction firms on a global basis.

Robinson also said that the projects firms like his undertake are changing the world and this should mean that the sector is even more important for the younger generation to want to work in and this provides a great opportunity for the sector.

Robin Greenleaf, chair emeritus of the American Council of Engineering Companies, said the industry and businesses needed to prepare for the future now, because if they didn’t then people weren’t doing their jobs. It really was crucial for the industry to promote itself in a way that made young people in particular want to consider engineering and construction as a future career, Greenleaf said. That’s something that she would be focused on and was a key takeaway from the FIDIC conference for her.

José Joaquín Ortiz García, chairman of Joyco, said that it was important for companies to highlight their purpose in a way that demonstrated the real and lasting difference they made to society and to peoples lives as this would help make the industry even more attractive to new entrants.

Mads Rasmussen, associate project and market director at COWI, agreed and also concurred with the session chair John Gamble, president and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada, that candidates for new roles were as much interviewing the company as much as the company was interviewing the applicant for the job.

Rasmussen also said it was imperative for the industry to go out and influence the next generation and look out of the box to recruit other disciplines and experts to provide the human resources needed to build a better tomorrow based on a sustainable approach that could transform people’s lives.