New Engineers Australia National President Trish White wants the profession to play a bigger role in nation building. She sits down with create to discuss her big plans for the profession.
create: As National President for 2018, what experience will you bring to your new role?
TRISH WHITE: I bring the combination of my experiences as an engineering executive, cabinet minister, business consultant and professional company director, working across many industries. I perform at my best when I also focus on bringing the talent of others to the fore.
create: What do you see as the key challenges for engineers right now?
TW: We must remain relevant as a profession. There is a national focus on innovation and the role of engineers is critical as we transform our economy and ensure a sustainable future – unless we want a future defined solely by bankers, accountants and lawyers.
We must envision our desired future, explain what value engineers can bring to that vision and then inspire engineering talent by generating real excitement for the immense possibilities.
I also want to strengthen the relationship of Engineers Australia with industry, academia, government and the community so our independent technical advice is heard and valued.
New technology is disrupting industry everywhere, reshaping business models, and engineers are increasingly relevant and important. Yet, when I look around the boardrooms and cabinets of this country, where decisions about infrastructure spending and setting policies regarding jobs are made, I’ve got to ask, ‘why aren’t there more engineers?’. As a profession, I’d like to see us step up and be part of those debates and that decision making.
create: What are your plans to draw the best and brightest minds to engineering?
TW: We really need to inspire people and promote the profession as a strong career option. We have to imagine what the future of engineering can be for the country, our communities and then strongly encourage the talent to consider it as a career.
We’ve got significant problems with the sheer lack of numbers of young people studying the subjects they need to enter engineering courses.
Also, we’ve got to retain those people once we train them. In this country we import many more engineers than we train in our institutions, and only 12 per cent of our engineering workforce is women. So there’s a huge amount of talent there currently untapped.
Part of my role as National President of Engineers Australia is to get people excited about the profession and show them what an engineering career can do for the community and their own career.