“Talent is everywhere - and future leaders are key to harnessing it”

24 May 2022

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The latest event in FIDIC’s ongoing webinar series on 24 May 2022 offered a unique and revealing glimpse into the future of the consulting engineering industry through the insights of the young professionals that will shape it over the coming years, writes FIDIC communications advisor Andy Walker.

Around the world in 90 minutes - changes and future trends in the delivery of consulting engineering services was organised by the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council and provided an international perspective of what the next generation of consulting engineering professionals see as the most important changes, challenges and future trends impacting the global industry.

Introducing the event, which was attended by around 230 industry professionals, Luis Villarroya, president of the multinational engineering company Eptisa and also the vice president of FIDIC, praised the important work of the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council, which he said was doing a great job engaging with future and emerging leaders in the consultancy and engineering sector to promote FIDICs activities.

The international line-up of panellists included industry future leaders from around the world, with representation from Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, Poland, Denmark, South Africa, Canada and Japan. Speakers at the event, which was introduced by Rodrigo Juarez, consultant, FOA Consulting (Mexico), were Artur Henrique de Morais Brito, project manager, TPF Engenharia (Brazil), Adam Bialachowski, CEO, Vintage Consulting (Poland), Mads Brandt Rasmussen, associate project and market director, COWI (Denmark), Neelam Parbhoo, engineer, Knight Piesold Southern Africa, Michael Walker, municipal infrastructure manager, Associated Engineering (Canada) and Masao Yamakawa, section leader, Yachiyo Engineering (Japan).

Role of millennials and genZs

Speaking first, Neelam Parbhoo, engineer at Knight Piesold Southern Africa, said that increasingly companies in South Africa were turning to the use of technology to improve efficiency and outputs. She also highlighted some of the concerns around the use of technology as some in the industry were afraid that its increased use might lead to job losses. Parbhoo also spoke about the skills and resource situation in South Africa. “Our human resource practitioners have had to better understand the needs of millennials and ‘GenZs’ who wanted to work in a different way to what had previously been common in the sector. We have now adopted a hybrid working model where people work from home and in the office and we see firms paying much more attention to people’s mental health than they did in the past,” she said. Another key trend that Parbhoo highlighted was a greater focus on sustainability in engineers’ designs, which she said would provide greater scope for future leaders going forward.

Michael Walker, municipal infrastructure manager, Associated Engineering (Canada), said that like in South Africa, there is major investment taking place in infrastructure in Canada, which was good news for the industry. Walker said that the global pandemic had shown the importance of networking, especially with the increased use of technology, but that this had its challenges too. “It’s really nice to see us getting back to in-person meetings now as people get back to the office,” he said. Using the principle of ‘never getting a good crisis go to waste’, Walker said that it was good to see the increase in flexible and remote working patterns and the upgrades to IT provision that have occurred to keep pace with this. “HR policies are becoming way more inclusive, with improvements to parental leave and more flexible working,” he said. Walker said that the news wasn’t all good, as the pandemic has led to challenges around the way that the industry was dealing with risk. “Covid has made procurement worse in Canada, especially in the way that risk is handled in our industry,” he said.

Mads Brandt Rasmussen, associate project and market director, COWI (Denmark), also talked about the pandemic-influenced improvements that had taken place in the area of family-friendly policies in the industry in Denmark. This was important, as with the increase in post-Covid infrastructure spending, the industry was being resource challenged like never before, he said. Rasmussen said that he thought this was a trend across Scandinavia and possibly across Europe too. “There is a risk that the industry will not be able to deliver on all the work that will be needed in the future, so we have a strategy to increase the numbers of people studying engineering and construction in our universities,” he said. This drive to increase resources needed to be an international one, Rasmussen said, and it was important to work in other languages other than Danish. “We are working better and more efficiently than we did before the pandemic and taking care of people’s mental health too,” he said. This was a ‘new normal’ way of working that was looking after employees and putting them more at the centre of things than they had been in the past, said Rasmussen.

Covid has speeded up changing working patterns

Masao Yamakawa, section leader, Yachiyo Engineering (Japan), said that many of the issues and trends that other speakers had raised were also similar in the industry in Japan. The increasing use of technology was making a difference to the way that people were working, he said, saying that over time he believed that this would fundamentally change the industry itself. “The way that people’s careers were developing was already changing even before the pandemic, but Covid has speeded up this process,” he said. This was due to both increasing use of ICT but also because employees wanted to work in a different way, said Yamakawa.

Artur Henrique de Morais Brito, project manager, TPF Engenharia (Brazil), agreed with other speakers’ views on the shift to remote and hybrid working. “This is a new reality that employees and firms must all face. It is becoming more and more natural to work flexibly and that is just where we are now,” he said. There was a real need for increased use of technology and also for managers to get used to working across geographical boundaries with diverse multicultural teams while working in a remote or hybrid way, de Morais Brito said. He also made the point that he thought that the idea of a four-day working week was back on the agenda and the industry would need to be prepared to discuss this as it arose with employees. “Nowadays, talent is everywhere and as future leaders we need to keep our eyes open so that we can harness this for the good of our industry,” he said.

Summing up the discussion, Adam Bialachowski, CEO, Vintage Consulting (Poland), said that it was clear that the world was getting smaller, with increasing use of technology and remote working driving changes in the way that the industry was working. “Many of the issues that we have heard about today are common to future leaders across the world and thank you to all our speakers for sharing their experiences, thoughts and insights,” he said.

The webinars in the FIDIC 2022 programme have been organised in conjunction with FIDIC’s standing committees, councils or panels of experts, while others are launch events for FIDIC’s State of the World report series.

Click here to view details of future FIDIC webinars and to book places.

View the webinar recording below.

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