Engineers of the future

Alexandra Radulovich believes engineers have an important role to shape the infrastructure of the future

In the evolving infrastructure engineering space, being part of a collaborative community has never been more compelling. Roads & Infrastructure speaks to Engineers Australia about the importance of professional development. 

“All development is based around engineering, so I think we have a crucial role in making sure that we develop solutions and designs with sustainability at the forefront,” says Alexandra Radulovich, geotechnical engineer at Douglas and Partners.

As an Engineers Australia member, Ms. Radulovich believes engineers have an important role to shape the infrastructure of the future. To do this, engineers need to build a strong network and keep pace with the latest industry developments.

“Engineers Australia reminds me that I need to move forward with continuing professional development and be informed about what is going on in the wider world of engineering,” she says.

As a member of the Engineers Australia Women in Engineering Committee, she says it has been valuable to network with likeminded people and give back to the engineering community.

“One of my main goals outside of my immediate career is to get more women into engineering. Without Engineers Australia, that goal is a lot harder to achieve because we have their support with all committee events,” Ms. Radulovich says.

“In the past couple of years, I have started going to a lot of Engineers Australia networking events because that is increasingly becoming an important part of my career.”

Bronwyn Evans, CEO of Engineers Australia, says the organisation places great importance on members networking through the community.

“The purpose of Engineers Australia is to advance the science and practice of engineering for the benefit of the community and we really do that by making sure we support our engineers to be the best possible,” she says

“When you think about any professional development schemes, learning on the job is an important part, learning from others through your network is another, and then formal professional development type programs are also crucial.”

Engineers Australia supports this development journey throughout each engineer’s career as they learn and grow with the industry.

“A student engineer can get access to mentoring, job boards and other experienced engineers. Mid-career engineers can build their credentials and recognition as a chartered engineer. Then for more senior engineers, we look at how to shape the profession, the broader economy and the community’s understanding of engineering,” Ms. Evans says.

There are over 100,000 Engineers Australia members across the country and each of the nine divisions has specialised committees. The Women in Engineering committee that Ms. Radulovich is involved with is one example.

Bronwyn Evans, CEO of Engineers Australia, says the organisation places great importance on member networking.

These committees set up events tailored to each community.

Ms. Evans says while visiting the Engineers Australia Tasmanian branch last year she noticed they were closely aligned with the Tasmanian Government’s infrastructure strategy.

“The group was providing input directly to government, not just shaping their own careers but shaping their communities,” Ms. Evans says.

Aside from supporting engineers personally, Engineers Australia works to better the wider industry through advocacy and consultation with government and industry authorities.

Ms. Evans says one current advocacy discussion is around the registration of engineers.

The Victorian Government passed a bill late last year that implemented professional engineer registrations to enhance confidence in the industry.

The bill enforces a mandatory registration scheme for civil, mechanical, electrical, structural and fire safety engineers. It is founded on the principle that a minimum level of qualifications, experience and continuing professional development is required to carry out professional engineering services.

“In a report titled ‘Building Confidence’, 24 recommendations were listed for the sector, the first of which was around the registration of engineers. We have been very active in consulting with our members and advocating for a consistent registration system around Australia,” Ms. Evans says.

“In Victoria, Engineers Australia was active in helping government to understand what the approach to registration would look like and what approach would make it easy for our members to practice across jurisdictions.”

The organisation is now going through a similar process in NSW, with the bill at senate inquiry stage.

“We are actively talking with government there about what a successful scheme would look like in NSW,” Ms. Evans says.

These kinds of opportunities to change the industry and advance personal careers are initiatives the organisation takes seriously.

Ms. Evans says once you become a chartered professional engineer, one of the requirements is to continue with professional development.

“The organisation will remind you that to be successful you need to stay curious and you need to keep learning. We will provide every opportunity we can to make it easy and interesting to learn and connect with the best minds in the world,” she says.

Engineers Australia works to support industry events through its committees.

Ms. Evans says industry growth is going to be crucial in the future when engineering infrastructure for a sustainable world.

“People will demand different standards and we will be responding to diverse environments. I think innovation in infrastructure is going to be a really critical and engineers are going to be an important part of that,” she says.

“We need to understand that we are building infrastructure for the next 60 years or more and in that context, engineers will have to ensure structures are fit for future conditions.”

She says engineers will have to learn how to use problem solving skills in different formats such as with digital twins.

Despite the challenges ahead, Ms. Evans remains excited about the possibilities.

“The future of engineering couldn’t be more inspiring. The profession will be different to what it was, but it’s going to be interesting. We will have to optimise, and people will demand we are very conscious of community impacts and the environment,” she says.

Ms. Evans believes engineers will play a key role in developing the future of Australia and as they always have, solve many complex issues. She says critical thinking skills will remain at the forefront of this future.

“Because the world is changing so fast, it will be hard to keep track of all of the changes individually. That isn’t practical. However, as a professional body, we can facilitate and curate information that allows engineers to create a bespoke professional development awareness for themselves,” Ms. Evans says.

“We all became engineers in the first place because we are curious. Maintaining that curiosity is going to be important to ensure we have engineers at the table and engineers helping to create that table.”

To find out more about Engineers Australia membership visit the website.

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