Paving the Future of Civil Engineers

July 2006 » Columns
What would bring together the presidents of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations; International Federation of Consulting Engineers; the South African Institution of Civil Engineering; the Japan Society of Civil Engineers; senior leaders from Bechtel Corporation; Camp, Dresser & McKee; DMJM Harris; and a plethora of academic institutions, private and public companies, and organizations? The Summit on the Future of the Civil Engineering Profession in 2025. Held in June, the 2025 Summit gathered national and world engineering leaders to address globalization, technology, and leadership for engineers in the next few decades. It is akin to the planning that parents undergo for their children's future education. The mentors, or concerned guardians, of our profession strategized on the actions and investments that will continue to generate leaders in civil engineering. The summit's report summarizing the findings and conclusions will be published later this year. Confidentiality governs several aspects of the summit. Therefore, please note that the rest of this article is my speculation, had I been able to participate in the summit.
Cathy Baz&aacute
What would bring together the presidents of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations; International Federation of Consulting Engineers; the South African Institution of Civil Engineering; the Japan Society of Civil Engineers; senior leaders from Bechtel Corporation; Camp, Dresser & McKee; DMJM Harris; and a plethora of academic institutions, private and public companies, and organizations? The Summit on the Future of the Civil Engineering Profession in 2025.

Held in June, the 2025 Summit gathered national and world engineering leaders to address globalization, technology, and leadership for engineers in the next few decades. It is akin to the planning that parents undergo for their children's future education. The mentors, or concerned guardians, of our profession strategized on the actions and investments that will continue to generate leaders in civil engineering. The summit's report summarizing the findings and conclusions will be published later this year.

Confidentiality governs several aspects of the summit. Therefore, please note that the rest of this article is my speculation, had I been able to participate in the summit.

Actions on outreach. As a young professional, I was impressed by the level of seniority represented at the summit: from presidents of international organizations and corporations to renowned and distinguished professors and public officials. It is inspiring that these leaders invest their valuable time for the event. These leaders and others at similar levels within our industry could build on this investment by enforcing outreach and retention programs for our profession-from internships and scholarships to personal presentations to middle/high schools and universities. The active participation "from the top" could entice younger professionals and students to become involved in promotion and outreach.

Diverse role models. As an immigrant Latina growing up in the United States, I had a limited pool of engineering role models. My career perseverance is due to my parents and instructors who reminded me that someone has to pave the way. If, as an example, the leaders at the summit provide open forums among companies to discuss areas of concern among employees in a confidential (truly open) environment, this may address issues among genders, races, and ages that otherwise stay in the background and become the reasons (in some cases) why students and young professionals turn away from engineering (e.g. appropriate language, effective communication, and when are you an "expert", et cetera).

Exposure and visibility. At home and when I travel, I see billboards, and hear radio and television announcements that promote or cover services in accounting, law, medicine, insurance, and goods. However, I do not recall seeing similar promotions for the engineering profession. Most of our coverage is within our professional publications. In my opinion, the public views engineering as a commodity, in part because we remain invisible to most people. Efforts by some organizations and corporations now are addressing this issue, including working with licensing boards. Please keep it up! Perhaps, the Think Tank members addressed this issue and could let those of us in the trenches know how we can help.

I look forward to reading in my local newspaper a summary report of the 2025 Summit’s recommendations. Alternatively, I hope that the engineering community shares among its members the outcomes of the summit and how we all can contribute to providing a brighter future for engineers in 2025 and beyond.

Send your comments to civilconnection@cenews.com.

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