The challenges ahead for the engineering industry
From heating our homes to keeping us connected online, the engineering industry and the complexity that it entails plays a huge part in our daily lives. Countless parts of our everyday lives are supported by engineering. But as the times change, more is being demanded from engineers.
The article takes a look at how the industry will progress, with a key focus on the challenges that lay ahead for the industry and those who keep it in motion.
The eco-friendly face of engineering
New regulations that outline the importance of engineers becoming more eco-friendly is in full swing. As a result of government targets, the engineering sector must strive towards reducing its carbon output. Individual countries have outlined their own strategies for approaching this, to help conserve the world we live in. The UK government has stated it aims to reduce domestic carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050, based from the 1990 levels.
One attribute of engineering that has made a name for itself over the years for being a large contribution to carbon emissions, is construction. Therefore, it’s a vital area for improvement to be focused on making the engineering behind it as ‘green’ as possible. From planning to building projects, eco-friendly construction engineering is a practice becoming frequently adopted by engineers in the design stages of new developments. From using innovative green materials, using resources effectively to minimise waste, and planning with an adaptability perspective, engineers will continue to incorporate sustainable practices into construction projects.
Engineering is also present in more places than just the earth’s surface. Design and development advances have led to clear innovation in the machinery used for construction beneath the world’s oceans too. Subsea machinery is used to target otherwise inaccessible areas to access resources such as oil and gas. They also allow for the implementation of subsea cables for purposes such as WiFi connectivity. The underwater vessels responsible for the maintenance of these cables, such as ROVs and trenchers, are becoming increasingly streamlined to meet the ‘green’ goal when it comes to new construction projects. These new technologies are at the forefront of the world’s biggest engineering expos, showcasing environmentally considerate solutions.
STEM: closing the gap
The industry will not only be faced with the challenges their activities involve, there are already some evident difficulties for the workforce within the sector. There’s a growing call to tackle the issue of engineering as a gendered vocation, and the current imbalance is impacting those who steer the sector in their everyday vocations.
The industry has a lack of diversity, and this is reflected by the fact that only 12% of women out of the 47% which make up the current workforce, are in engineering roles. While STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) gaps are evident across the board, the attitudes which fuel them can certainly be resolved. ]
Highlighting the issues of gender inequality in engineering type industries at regular conferences, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) aim to diminish the gap as they continue to make a presence on their own at International Women in Engineering day each year. Since 2017, there’s been an increase of more than 44,000 women in STEM positions, with a further 25% boost in the number of professional women engineers.
The burden of Brexit
Due to the current reliance on international students, the current scope of future engineers looks set to be rather narrow in the years to come. As the UK enters a transitional period with the EU, new regulations could leave posts looking sparse. Research by EngineeringUK discovered that there is a high chance that universities could face difficulties when recruiting students from overseas, as well as experiencing a possible drop in funding. International collaborative projects might also take longer, as the UK’s new relationship with the EU looks set to mean more lengthy negotiations due to new restrictions.
When it comes to striving towards change and showing support towards infrastructural development, the engineering industry plays a key part. As a result, it falls onto the shoulders of those within the engineering sector to lead further advancements, taking on the challenge of meeting a widespread goal for reducing the global carbon output, improving workplace diversity, and navigating difficult climates.