Expertise needed in many areas

IPWEA Victoria CEO, David Hallett, gives a rundown of what skills employers want from their public works engineers.

Anyone who attended the IPWEA Victoria’s recent Public Works Conference will think that public works engineering is an increasingly complex and diverse profession. Consider two of the conference highlights – the Engineering Update panel discussion about the practical challenges facing the sector and the What Employers Are Looking For presentation that stressed the importance of “soft” skills for future leaders.

The conference program’s three technical streams addressed smart technology, asset management and environmental sustainability – just some of the areas in which contemporary engineers need a high degree of expertise. However, engineering is not simply a technical discipline. Engineers must engage effectively with their communities, colleagues and multi-disciplinary project teams of consultants and contractors.

Effective inter-personal engagement requires well-developed “soft”, “business” or “enterprise” skills. The conference program also included a non-technical “Performance Enhancement” stream. This stream featured presentations on organisational design, motivation and innovation, which are just some of the skills required by effective engineering team/project managers and leaders.

Career progression for engineers therefore requires a “both-and” approach to skill development rather than an “either-or” approach.  Current and potential employers want evidence of both technical and non-technical capability; personal and professional skills; IQ and EQ – all of these attributes. This duality is best represented by a model presented by two speakers, which they called the “T-shaped Engineer”. This kind of engineer possesses a depth of technical skills and a breadth of transferable enterprise skills, particularly in the area of communication.

This duality underpins the IPWEA Victoria’s focus on “soft” skill development during recent years through its broad-based conference program and its annual engineering and management leadership programs.

  The Engineering Leadership Program has been created to develop the technical skills of public works practitioners in supervisory or co-ordination roles. With a focus on leading engineering teams and projects, the program aims to develop leading professionals.

  The Management Leadership Program has been created to develop the business skills of public works practitioners in or seeking management roles within the industry. With a focus on contemporary management practice and leadership approaches, this program aims to develop professional leaders.

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