What enginers need to know about the future

"Within our lifetimes we should get to the point where death really isn’t such a major career problem.” It's crystal ball gazing time, as Student & Young Professional takes a punt on the future of engineering - new technologies, new applications for old technologies and new trends in using them all. Read on and plan your career...


The Future of Work for Engineers

by Ray Hammond (pictured), who researches and publishes on the trends that will affect society and business in the future

“I do think that the short and medium-term future for engineers is very bright. 90% of my time is spent outside the UK and what I see is that there’s almost a rediscovery of engineering and manufacturing around Europe following the financial crisis. 

"The reason is that I think the balance had slipped towards an economy dominated by financial services. I’m not suggesting we’ll see a return to heavy manufacturing in the UK, but I believe there is a wish to rebalance our economy. 

"Privately, politicians have said to me that we’ve really got to make sure that the engineering departments and related fields – like maths and sciences – need to be as strong as possible. Although a large part of the manufacturing will be done abroad, the design element, the creative elements of engineering, will see a boost in the UK.

Creative engineering

“The future I see for engineers in Britain is that the creative element of engineering will be staying here. So if someone is designing, if they’re analysing, stressing, modelling, I think it will be done here but in collaboration with people overseas. The reason I think that is because it requires the cutting edge approach the developed world has. 

"The branches of engineering that are going to get stronger are in design and innovation, these will be the core growth areas. Overseeing project management is important, but it is the innovation that will be essential to the challenges facing us all.

Green engineering

“One example is that we’re asking engineers to design us a much cleaner world and they have a huge part to play in this creation of a cleaner world. So whether they are engine designers or systems designers, they have a huge role to play in creating this greener world. Young engineers have a huge opportunity for any of them who grasp this and who build it into their own studies and CV, I really think that it will be wonderful.

Global working

“The other big trend is that we’re looking at an era where truly international collaboration will be commonplace. We know that we can have teams all over the world and that teams can work on a project no matter what time zone they’re in. But as we move more towards cloud computing where the project sits in the cloud, then we’ll be able to take this a step further and move the model of a project through time zones effortlessly, whilst retaining a proper audit trail of who does what. 

"For example, if I’m someone who designs a ventilation system for a larger building project, I will have to be working with people who are going to construct it in China and Mexico. That’s the sort of thing that will be changing. You’ll be working globally all the time.

Time is short

“One thing we need to be aware of is that the developing world will quickly become developed. We know, for example, that China is already starting to outsource parts of its manufacturing to parts of Africa and what we’re seeing quite rapidly is the intellectual skills being taken up by places that were previously developing nations and that means – frankly – that we’ve got to run faster. 

"We’ve got to be more creative and the skills that we need the most are the ones that allow us to innovate and create a better process. That’s why my advice to graduate engineers is to focus on the non-material parts of your job. 

Think big

"Even if you are a bridge designer, look at the modelling systems, look at the project management systems, look at the collaborative systems, don’t abandon the traditional disciplines by any means but as the future arrives you must be ahead of the game.”

For further information regarding Ray Hammond, please visit his website.

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