-Photo courtesy EWBTURNS FOR THE BETTER
The time for engineers to remodel Canada as a leader in global development is now. Opportunities abound — and few professions are better equipped to see them through
Editor’s Note: The following is one in a series of articles provided by Engineers Without Borders, Calgary Professional Chapter.
BY JAMES HAGA
EWB Freelance Columnist
A chance to get your hands dirty and immerse yourself in a tough problem — sounds like something that would send many a non-engineer running frantically in the opposite direction. But to you, it’s an exciting proposition.
In place of hopelessness you see tangible solutions. You pride yourself on your ability to overcome complex challenges, and to innovate and apply practical solutions.
That’s right. For an engineer there’s nothing like a tough challenge.
Although the concept of practical and innovative solutions generally brings to mind a slick design or nifty calculation, why limit your zest for challenge and unique results to the scientific realm? In a world that is increasingly interconnected economically, environmentally and socially, there’s an incredible range of challenges, each one awaiting solutions that you have the skills to provide.
Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat and former United Nations secretary general, identified this exciting proposition in her address to the engineering community in 2002. She said: “Let me challenge all of you to help mobilize global science and technology to tackle the interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation and conflict that are holding back the developing world.”
So there it is, Alberta engineers. The world has a challenge for you — to uphold your professional responsibility and be leaders in overcoming issues of global urgency, such as extreme poverty and environmental degradation. Engineers play a crucial role in societal change, and looking at today’s critical challenges and tomorrow’s impending realities, your responsibility in creating this change can only grow.
The Globally Minded Engineer
We are all aware of how the engineering industry has changed in recent years. The profession’s businesses span the globe like never before.
In a recent University of London report, experts agreed that “the future of engineering is being framed by global forces which transcend national boundaries …” These include globalization, rapid technology advances, climate change and inequality, says the 2008 report, entitled The Global Engineer: Improving Global Skills Within U.K. Higher Education of Engineers.
By 2015 an estimated 80 per cent of infrastructure and utilities work will take place in developing countries. In the next 10 years alone roughly $600 billion will be invested in the oil and gas industry in Africa. Clearly, the parameters of engineering are changing, and we must all adapt and re-examine our roles in the world accordingly.
This is an idea Shayne Smith, P.Eng., the CEO of Wardrop Engineering Inc., is very comfortable with. His company, in fact, has committed itself to changing the face and role of the engineering profession in Canada.
He says: “Demonstrating leadership in globally minded engineering is not only a professional responsibility, but it also makes perfect business sense. In short, projects that genuinely consider and embrace community and global impacts attract and retain talented and motivated people.”
With projects in over 50 countries, Wardrop has helped develop a business style where the needs, culture and challenges of its clients and stakeholders are becoming integral to their implementation and management.
The APEGGA permit holder understands the role it plays in global development and has recently established a long-term partnership with Engineers Without Borders Canada. The three-year partnership will see Wardrop actively supporting EWB’s work in Ghana, and Wardrop employees will benefit from the extensive human development experiences passed along by EWB members.
EWB will work with Wardrop employees in a workplace campaign to share knowledge of international development and awareness of emerging global challenges. The relationship is far more than a business transaction, of course — but in dollars and cents it is worth at least $60,000 a year.
Mr. Smith notes that Wardrop’s commitment to international development has been greatly influenced by some of the company’s younger employees — many of whom are also members of EWB. He says EWB members “represent the most progressive mindset that I’ve seen in engineering today. The coming generation of engineering talent has evolved on its own, and it’s achieved a tremendous balance where social justice isn’t just words.
“These people are not only thinking of themselves — they’re thinking, How can I make the world a better place? These are the type of people our company wants to work with.”
Support in the Pipe
Another EWB partner is the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. For the past year, it’s been partnering with EWB by providing financial support for work in Canada and overseas, as well as building awareness in its community.
Says Brenda Kenny, P.Eng., the association’s president: “The engineering profession is a critical component of CEPA’s work, so we are proud and excited to see an organization like EWB set an example for how engineers and the engineering profession can contribute to practical solutions for communities around the globe. The partnership between our two organizations is mutually beneficial and that’s what sets it apart.”
As a part of its commitment, CEPA organizes two annual fundraisers in the Calgary area — a golf tournament and a gala dinner that together raise about $30,000 a year for EWB programs.
CEPA has embraced the idea of working with communities to ensure development needs are strongly considered for the projects their members are involved with. “On a daily basis,” says Ms. Kenny, “folks in the pipeline sector face challenges involving how to enable appropriate development. We touch many communities in our work, and we appreciate the need for long-term connections and effective, respectful community development.”
A Recruitment Movement
Wardrop Engineering and CEPA are among several engineering-related bodies that have chosen to not only acknowledge the importance of a corporate presence in global challenges, but have also taken steps to act through partnerships and contributions.
There is, however, still an incredible opportunity for companies new to this idea to embrace it and introduce a mutually beneficial venture into their business strategy. Mr. Smith is eager to make it a movement, with plans of “knocking on the doors of other companies — getting them to make similar commitments to international development.”
He is adamant that his industry counterparts take these issues seriously. “There are so many ways that the business community can contribute to development, and equally as many ways our business can be strengthened by our partners, such as improving our understanding of how to work effectively at an international level.
“EWB and like organizations are able to attract members who’ve struck a balance between technical and social skills — a talent that is essential for our industry today.”
So the challenge has been issued. Canadian engineers have repeatedly proven their abilities with the quality of their work. Now is the time to augment that contribution, both as an industry and a profession, by solving global problems and tackling social challenges.
EWB asks you to immerse yourselves in this challenge and engage in a new discipline of engineering — global engineering!
Do you want more information about how your company can become an active supporter of international development efforts?