Creating the next generation of engineers
Adapted from AECOM’s Future of Infrastructure report, Roma Agrawal, one of our top talent structural engineers, and Susan Dumond, senior vice president of global talent management, lay out the areas in which engineers, and the wider industry, will need to upskill in order to deliver the infrastructure of today and tomorrow.
Technologies are transforming our lives and our world, impacting every type of infrastructure. The future demands smarter, more sustainable, resilient and innovative infrastructure solutions, and a new generation of talent to deliver them.
The challenges are familiar — they include training an interdisciplinary workforce, unleashing their imagination and expertise to solve future problems, anticipating which innovations and technologies will be in the ascendant, attracting a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and working much harder to tell our extraordinary and inspiring stories.
Most pressing for the industry is the issue of how to train, attract and retain the engineers needed to provide our smarter networks and systems. Over the next decade, we’ll continue to see technologies disrupt the infrastructure sector in ways we can’t even imagine now, creating new kinds of industries and jobs, as well as making others obsolete.
So, how do we evolve?
1/ FIRE UP THE NEXT GENERATION
For 2030 engineers, the future is bright and exciting. In the coming years, these minds will reshape the world around us — radically transforming and improving the ways in which we live and work, using the latest innovations and technology.
Although widely respected, engineering still isn’t seen as the most open, interesting or accessible career choice by young people. As an industry, the story we tell about ourselves needs to change — and fast. It needs to be human, impactful and, above all, authentic.
Crucially, this story needs to be heard more widely, including through the mainstream media. We need engineering champions who serve as compelling spokespersons, showing the great impact engineers have on the world.
2/ SECURING A DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE WORKFORCE
Our story matters. But so too do the people we have to tell it.
The business benefits of having diverse and inclusive teams are clear and well documented. But despite initiatives to increase diversity within engineering, the global infrastructure sector’s workforce remains largely male, middle-aged and white. We won’t change this reality overnight, but we can push harder and think more radically to achieve progress faster.
We need to start by challenging outdated assumptions that limit the ambitions of young people from more diverse backgrounds. We must also draw on new faces and voices — people who haven’t necessarily been in the industry for decades, but who can speak with authority and authenticity, and engage those we’re currently failing to reach.
And if we want things to change, we can’t shy away from discussing these issues openly, together — revealing and addressing the unconscious biases that prevent fundamental change.
3/ TRAIN FOR FUTURE INFRASTRUCTURE
On campuses across the world, there’s a revolution taking place in engineering education. The aim is to replicate the professional environment and practical challenges modern engineers face in their every day careers, as closely as possible. This includes giving students more opportunities to work in multidisciplinary teams tackling real-world problems.
More and more, organizations will also need to provide continuous learning — building cultures, platforms and spaces where people have the opportunity to develop, as well as potentially making learning a mandatory part of the work week.
Building on this, both new and more established members of the profession can learn a huge amount from each other, and valuable initiatives such as reverse mentoring can help make this a reality.
4/ USE WHAT MAKES YOU HUMAN
Robots aren’t just coming to a desk near you. They’re already here. With more routine engineering tasks set to be automated, it poses the question, “What will humans do?”
The answer isn’t as bleak as you might think. In fact, rather than being sidelined by machines, we’ll get to be even more of what we are … human. Our ability to empathize, communicate and collaborate with each other will be vital to our future success.
The future engineer will need to be equipped and ready to lead and work in multidisciplinary teams, reaching beyond borders. Similarly, our organizations will need to be as agile as the work we deliver, with teams pulled together as projects demand. In response, our leadership and management practices will also become more fluid — evolving and changing with the development of each new project and team.
5/ REBOOT THE INDUSTRY TO CLOSE THE SKILLS GAP
It’s always a gamble to predict what the workplace of the future might be. Nothing is certain with new technologies, industries and roles emerging all the time. But we do know some of the biggest, emerging trends set to reshape our working lives in the next 10 to 15 years.
We’re already living and working longer than ever before. As a result, our industry will need to offer more dynamic, less linear career models — creating new, flexible routes for individuals to build new skills that can lead them to different projects, functions and disciplines, supply chains and sectors.
A demographic shift is making our workplaces more multi-generational, with Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials in the workforce together for the first time. As such, we’ll be balancing different ways of working that are ultimately influenced by technology and community.
This more fluid working environment will require a new kind of manager — someone able to lead and support a team of people, all potentially working in different ways, at different times, in different places, to ensure the client’s needs are met.
Finally, as disciplines continue to converge, the future infrastructure industry will increasingly need to draw on the skills of engineers from other sectors. And, in this agile, smarter infrastructure world, we need our professional institutions to be more innovative, more vocal and more diverse drivers for change.
For the full article and source material, visit: https://infrastructure.aecom.com/infrastructure-skills