OPINION

There will be an urgent need for engineers in regional areas post-pandemic

There will be an urgent need for engineers in regional areas post-pandemic

As the country moves out of emergency mode and into recovery mode, what does a post-pandemic Australia look like?

One thing is certain - professional engineers are going to play a critical role in how we live our lives.

Engineers will be called upon to redesign many of the critical infrastructures that we take for granted.

Basic engineering design assumptions of the past will not apply in the future.

For example, engineers will have to rethink their assumptions about passenger densities on public transport and planes which will impact the design of trains, buses, planes and places where people board and disembark.

Climate change, too, poses challenges for engineers of the future.

Some scientists are telling us to be prepared for dramatic changes in temperature, rainfall and storm strength - all of which will impact the design assumptions for buildings and utility infrastructure such as poles, drainage pipes and roads.

Post-pandemic Australia will also mean a greater reliance on local manufacturing and production.

Australia's move to be more self-reliant in food growing and processing will mean a greater demand for engineers specialising in irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing.

So do we have enough engineers to meet the demand that this pandemic has caused? Not currently.

Australian universities produce too few engineers to meet the demand across many engineering disciplines.

The latest figures from Engineers Australia show annual demand for engineering graduates in Australia is about 16,000, but universities only produce about 9000.

Because many of those graduating engineers are international students, the shortfall will become even more pronounced because of the travel bans imposed to manage the pandemic.

We need these graduates more than ever. Australia needs innovative engineers who can future-proof our irrigation systems, mining operations, waste management systems and the digital systems to support these things.

And because we will become more reliant on local manufacturing and agriculture, this is especially true in regional communities.

The best way to become a regional engineer - indeed a regional anything - is to study regionally, get regional experience while completing the degree, and then apply this in a regional job after graduation. The demand is there already, and it will only increase.

I urge all people, young and not-so-young, who might be considering a career in engineering to jump in. Be part of engineering the country's future.

Chris Stoltz is a professor of practice in engineering at La Trobe University.

This story There will be an urgent need for engineers in regional areas post-pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.