Bridge not too far

En­gi­neer­ing a job so­lu­tion

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page - CARA JENKIN Ca­reerOne Edi­tor

EN­GI­NEER­ING is one of the least un­der­stood pro­fes­sions in the com­mu­nity, with about twothirds of Aus­tralians un­aware of what en­gi­neers do in their jobs, re­search has found.

So­cial re­searcher Mark McCrindle found only 37 per cent of peo­ple have an un­der­stand­ing of en­gi­neer­ing as a pro­fes­sion.

He found most peo­ple would rec­om­mend en­gi­neer­ing as a ca­reer path de­spite not be­ing able to de­scribe what an en­gi­neer­ing job would in­volve.

Yet Aus­tralians be­lieve en­gi­neers will play an im­por­tant role in solv­ing wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues, build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, deal­ing with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and tack­ling cli­mate change.

The re­search was car­ried out for En­gi­neers Aus­tralia to help iden­tify why there is a short­age of en­gi­neers in the work­force and why fewer peo­ple study it at uni­ver­sity.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Tay­lor says those who un­der­stood about en­gi­neer­ing as­so­ci­ated it with turn­ing ideas into re­al­ity.

‘‘We want to lift the cur­tain on what it is en­gi­neers ac­tu­ally do,’’ he says.

‘‘We want to help Aus­tralians un­der­stand that from bridges to Black­ber­rys, drink­ing wa­ter to the wa­ter cube, en­gi­neers and en­gi­neer­ing teams help make it so in the com­mu­nity.’’

En­gi­neers work in a range of sec­tors, in­clud­ing food and agri­cul­ture, in­dus­trial, me­chan­i­cal, soft­ware, trans­port, power gen­er­a­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, and coastal and ocean ar­eas.

They solve prob­lems, find new ways to do tasks, de­sign prod­ucts and in­fra­struc­ture and plan how to ad­dress com­mu­nity de­mands for ser­vices and re­sources.

SA Wa­ter ma­jor sys­tems ser­vice de­liv­ery man­ager Lisa Han­nant says her knowl­edge of the pro­fes­sion was limited when she first con­sid­ered it as a ca­reer.

But she pur­sued eningeer­ing be­cause of her strong an­a­lyt­i­cal and logic skills and her tal­ent and in­ter­est in maths and sci­ence.

‘‘One of the main rea­sons that I de­cided to study en­gi­neer­ing was purely for the chal­lenge,’’ she says. ‘‘I didn’t know a lot about the pro­fes­sion and I didn’t know any en­gi­neers to ask any ques­tions.

‘‘I guess I viewed a typ­i­cal en­gi­neer as some­one who worked in an of­fice and con­trib­uted to a de­sign team.’’

Ms Han­nant, 36, has pre­vi­ously worked as a field en­gi­neer and de­sign en­gi­neer.

She now man­ages and leads the op­er­a­tions team re­spon­si­ble for sev­eral as­pects of SA Wa­ter’s day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

She over­sees the op­er­a­tion of its ma­jor pump­ing sys­tems, in­clud­ing plan­ning for wa­ter to be pumped from the River Mur­ray to Ade­laide’s reser­voirs to meet the city’s wa­ter de­mands.

She also is re­spon­si­ble for the con­trol cen­tre which mon­i­tors re­gional wa­ter, waste wa­ter and treat­ment op­er­a­tions.

‘‘(Be­fore start­ing my ca­reer) I never fully ap­pre­ci­ated the va­ri­ety of func­tions that en­gi­neers per­form and the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties that en­gi­neer­ing can open up,’’ she says.

‘‘En­gi­neer­ing has pro­vided me with op­por­tu­ni­ties to face con­stant chal­lenges.’’

En­gi­neers Aus­tralia has been run­ning a com­pe­ti­tion to en­cour­age peo­ple to try their hand at en­gi­neer­ing by com­ing up with ideas to turn into re­al­ity.

Ideas so far have ranged from cre­at­ing a de­vice that turns off lights when peo­ple leave a room to mak­ing driv­ers alert to the cheap­est fuel price in their area when the fuel tank runs low.

The Make It So com­pe­ti­tion al­lows or­di­nary peo­ple to sub­mit their ideas. The fi­nal idea se­lected will be ‘‘made so’’ by an en­gi­neer­ing team.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit

Pic­ture: Greg Higgs

SA Wa­ter man­ager Lisa Han­nant stud­ied en­gi­neer­ing ‘‘purely for the chal­lenge’’.

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