The changing face of engineering and the challenges we face in attracting, developing and retaining the next generation of engineers is, for many us, an everyday reality
In many areas of engineering there is an aging workforce and organisations are struggling to recruit and retain existing staff.
Roles that were once mechanical are being blended to new roles that merge mechanical with software or electronics, and new technologies like Industry 4.0 and AI demand not just new skills but new ways of working.
The new generation of engineers are also incredibly mobile, they operate in a fast-changing, dynamic world and seem to positively embrace opportunities for professional development through changes in employment.
This is a global phenomenon, with a worldwide shortage of engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students and job candidates.
These challenges are seriously impacting operational and business performance and constraining many sectors in NZ such as construction, infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture. For many firms it seems like they are caught in the headlights with a business-as-usual approach and minimal progress plans.
So what is the future for engineering in New Zealand? How do we develop our engineering teams? What strategies can we employ to grow our capabilities and capacity? How can we be part of creating a better tomorrow?
One Government reaction is a proposal for sweeping reform of vocational education and trade training but is the rest of the NZ industry lagging? What can we do to drive engineering forward into a new sustainable era of improved productivity and social and economic development?
If a strong engineering education and communication will launch a career, continuous learning will keep it going. Adapting to environmental, social and technology changes in this dynamic world is essential for success and for continued improvement in plant performance.
We have a duty to inspire future generations of students, apprentices and graduates. We need greater interaction with young people and with local communities. We need to re-fashion engineering with a greater emphasis on applications, problem-solving, creativity and analytics along with our practical, hands-on view of engineering.