How are we going to adapt engineering education to prepare coming generations of engineers for climate warming and the need to protect people and infrastructure? How can we prepare them to re-engineer almost our entire civilisation to eliminate greenhouse and other harmful emissions in 25 years?
As you would know, I often write about engineers and engineering, and education issues. However, I have usually stopped short of specific recommendations, relying on my books and articles to convey ideas that educators can use.
Next week I am speaking at a panel discussion at Engineers Australia Perth on Wednesday March 31, 5:30 – 8pm. Register here to join in the discussion and contribute your ideas, or if you cannot join us then, reply to this post.
I have 5 minutes to start the discussion… what do you think I should I emphasise?
Well, here are the ideas I plan to touch on.
- Productivity: if we don’t teach engineers that their fundamental role is to enable people to do more with less time, effort, resources, energy etc, in other words improve productivity, we can’t expect significant improvement. And that’s exactly what economists are reporting – see this post.
- Need for an agreed “backbone” workplace learning curriculum common across most engineering disciplines
- Graduates inherit independent work habits from formal education, whereas workplace requires inter-dependent work habits
- Engineering requires specialised collaboration methods, beyond team work
- Knowing how to create commercial value from engineering work practices will help employers’ profitability
- Capability to argue for sustainability improvements requires understanding of regulatory risks and value creation
- Aboriginal notion of ‘country’ could be helpful in promoting sustainable practices
Recent reports have highlighted Australia’s declining results in PISA testing of maths, science and reading capabilities of children. Some in particular have drawn attention to Australia’s relatively weak performance compared with China and Singapore. I am unsure what this means. Should we invest more in maths and science education?
The Singaporean government is making it harder for foreigners to work there. International company people I meet in Singapore complain that young Singaporeans cannot perform as well as foreigners and demand too much pay, and the government is trying to force companies to employ more locals.
Read more: I argue that STEM is not the most important priority
I was honoured to be asked to write a guest editorial for the European Journal of Engineering Education – it has just appeared on the journal web page here. (If you cannot access this article through your library, you can use this free download link. However this link only works for the first 50 requests so please only use it if you have no other way to access the article.)
If it were not for my status as Emeritus Professor and my inclination to pursue many ideas at the same time, as well as running our little company Close Comfort, I probably would not have tried to squeeze maybe too many ideas into the one article. So I hope you find it interesting and not too scatterbrained.
I still work with students from time to time. Recently one told me how helpful he found one of the things he learned from me, the idea that talking to people face to face was so much more effective at getting things to happen at work. He is still finishing his degree, and told me he was surprised how easily he got a job by following the method I advocate, and have refined for my new book here. It’s a small piece of evidence that reassures me that the ideas in my editorial piece have some value.
I will be talking more about this at the forthcoming World Engineering Convention in Melbourne at the end of November. By all means come along and meet me there if you can spare the time.
Some of you may be disappointed with the Australian federal election result last Saturday. Especially if you think like I do, that we need to take stronger action to reduce greenhouse emissions and also to prepare people for much warmer weather to come.
Actually, there’s not much politicians can really do. Think about it. Pretty much everything we need to do to reduce greenhouse emissions relies on engineering and that in turn relies on private finance.
The Paris climate change agreement has received rather more praise than detailed explanations. Public discussion during the meeting seemed remarkably muted, perhaps for fear of reawakening ghosts of acrimonious disagreement from Copenhagen, 6 years earlier. I was in Paris on leave for the last few days of the meeting and far more media attention focused on European immigration, Syrian refugees, and the widely expected resurgence of the far-right National Front in local elections. The National Front lost, the Paris agreement was applauded: everyone sighed with relief and switched attention to Christmas and Star Wars 8. Climate Change quickly vanished as exhausted delegations left Paris.
Galleries Lafayette had this stunning Christmas play on Star Wars among
elaborately decorated windows to draw crowds of shoppers.
I believe that the Paris Agreement will soon re-emerge as one of the most significant developments influencing engineering in this century. It may not have received much media attention yet, but it demands close attention from all of us.
This agreement places enormous responsibilities on us as engineers and the world’s expectations are daunting. Continue reading