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ITE Annual Breakfast 2019

The following was presented by Austraffic Managing Director John Reid at the 2019 ITE Annual Breakfast:

"When Austraffic initiated the World Wide Learning Opportunities (WWLO) program we did so to give students and young professionals the opportunity to broaden their experience by attending specific professional functions, primarily overseas, using different transport systems and experiencing diverse cultures.

But we also saw the need to ensure that this was not just a one-off experience.  We are keen that those who have had this opportunity are mentored and fostered in their development in an on-going way. Austraffic, has for example, organised the young people to interact with communication professionals to help build on their skills to convey their thoughts.

When I spoke about the World Wide Learning Opportunities at an ITE dinner a year ago, I emphasised that it should not be just about young people visiting new places just to learn what others are already doing, nor to just learn how to apply new technology to the pattern and nature of trips we happen to be doing at the moment. New technology is not just mechanising, computerising or robotising existing activities.

As Roger Dunn, who was honoured at the Annual ITE dinner last year, said in recent interview, the mobile phone has done much more than make traditional calls easier.  It has changed society.

Engineers have been seen as having a narrow, nerdish approach, but our profession has been embracing a much wider range of inputs and we are adapting to them.  An area close to my heart is the increase in data from non-traditional sources.  I have long campaigned that data needs to be evaluated with a great understanding, something that is not happening nearly enough, but if done properly it will identify a whole new realm of ideas and directions our solutions must take.

Professor Elanor Huntington is the dean of engineering at the ANU, the first woman to hold this position. And, In a recent ABC interview she said:

“What I'm trying to do, is convince the world to think somewhat more capaciously about what engineering skills are all about and what we might use them for”.

Capacious means to have a lot of space and able to contain a lot.

We need dynamic people who can contain a lot of thinking because business is under enormous pressure to reduce costs, which reduces our time to think and the quality of data we can collect.

And Governments are reducing in-house engineering skills with a preference for project management and communications specialists. To singularly bring projects in on-time and on-budget with glossy communications is not valuable, if we are doing the wrong projects.

May I again quote Professor Huntington who said, in part:

“My question is actually more to do with do we have the right kinds of problem finders as we move into the next 20 or 30 years."

"And if you go looking at all of the literature around creativity for themes emerging, then creativity is generally regarded to rest on four things: deep expertise, divergent thinking, confidence and motivation."

“And so the question is, do we have the right kind of deep expertise as we go into the future?"

It has been a great joy to contribute and be part of World Wide Learning Opportunities program and I thank the ITE for its vision in facilitating this. Clearly it is showing us the considerable talents of our young people and giving them the chance to flourish through this experience. I would like to encourage other stakeholders to join with Austraffic as co-sponsors in this great initiative."

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Photo credit:Chris Liverani on Unsplash