“PEng Day 2021 and the History Leading Up to It” or “Professional Engineers are Invisible and Unrecognised in Australia”.

Thank you Chris, I’d now like to talk about the history which has led up to Professional Engineers Day, today, in Australia.

As a Young Professional Engineer in my early 30s in the mid 1970s I assumed that it was impossible for Professional Engineers to be visible and recognised in Australia.

Then one day another Young Prof. Engineer, Peter Hicks, in Telstra where I worked said that Professional Engineers in Europe were recognised and appreciated to be above doctors and also they used the Ing. prefix title.

That simple statement started me out on one of the most difficult projects in my engineering career. And that was to see what could be done in Australia to try and achieve a similar result for Professional Engineers in Australia. To put Prof. Engineers on the map in Australia as a visible and recognised profession.

In the overall picture, Prof. Engineers are a well organised profession behind the scenes in Australia and operate very well in achieving a lot for their engineering companies and for the material quality of life of the community at large. It’s just that they lack visibility and recognition in the general community. The goal therefore was to fix this one major problem of lack of visibility and to bolt the solution on to the well performing engineering profession behind the scenes without detracting from it. And to do all this while evolving a solution which would be effective in the community and acceptable to the approx. 200,000 Prof. Engineers in Australia.

The first thing I did was to discuss the idea with my Prof. Engineer colleagues in Telstra where I worked and they did share my interest to try and find a solution to our invisibility problem. Then I thought I would get involved with the committees of Engineers Australia to see what could be done.

I then joined the Engineers Australia Vic Div Committee and discussed the need for effective Public Relations for Prof. Engineers in Australia and received some encouragement from the Committee.

I soon got the OK to form the Media & Publicity Sub-committee attached to the EA Vic Div Committee and I formed it with about eight other Young Prof. Engineers.

We spent about two years on this sub-committee studying and researching the problem of why Prof. Engineers in Australia were invisible and unrecognised. We found that it was not because Prof. Engineers performed badly as a profession at all but simply that their title of “Engineer” was widely misused in Australia as in many other English speaking countries around the world to designate many different occupational groups. These occupational groups included Mechanics, Fitters & Turners, Technicians, Technical Officers / Engineering Associates, Engineering Technologists and Prof. Engineers amongst others.

We then set out to try and find a solution to the problem which would be effective in the general community while being acceptable to Prof. Engineers across Australia. We considered lots of options and then settled on the use of the International title for Prof. Engineers of “Ingenieur” which comes from the French language and has spread to quite a number of other countries around the world.

The first approach was to adopt the “Ingenieur” title across the board in place of “Engineer” and “Prof. Engineer” for all Prof. Engineers in Australia. However, although this would have been effective, it was also not popular amongst Prof. Engineers as it was too big a departure from our historical past and also it would have been difficult to implement.

After much discussion with many Prof. Engineers we then developed the titles package of “Ing. Jack Smith, Professional Engineer”. This means that we retain all the suffix titles, such as MIEAust, after a Prof. Engineer’s name and simply use the International Ing. title as a prefix for those Prof. Engineers who would like to do so and help the profession to become visible and recognised in the general community. And the Prof. Engineers with a PhD may use the International Dr.Ing. prefix to distinguish them from the Medicos.

Also, the “Professional Engineer” aspect of the titles package fits well with International usage for designating Prof. Engineers in many English speaking countries around the world.

Another activity the Media & Publicity Sub-committee carried out was to initiate “Professional Engineers Week” which involved all the five Australian Prof. Engineer Societies of EA, APEA, ACEA, IREE and the LGEA. A further additional activity was to initiate the “Professional Engineer of the Year” awards to encourage some high achiever Prof. Engineers to speak out in the community about their role with advancing the material quality of life of the community. These awards are continuing to this day.

With Prof. Engineers Week we were fortunate in being donated the services of a top advertising agency in Melbourne to help us with developing a poster for the Week. I had the job of working with the poster designer in his creation of the poster. The first draft poster he prepared was that of a gear wheel floating in space. I said “That is really the mechanic image” and he said “You are mechanics, aren’t you?”. I said “No, we design space ships, big bridges, power stations and telecommunications networks amongst other infrastructure and technological things”. He said “All those things are designed by Scientists, aren’t they?”. I said “No, by Professional Engineers”. We then talked for about half an hour about Prof. Engineers carrying out high level planning, design and project management of infrastructure and technological things. At which point he then said “I know what you are: you are the masterminds behind technology”.

This was a big breakthrough for me as it is very difficult to describe in a few words the role of the many Professional Engineers who operate in many different branches of engineering across Australia and across the world to advance the material quality of life of the whole community in so many ways.

The poster designer then prepared his next poster which you see behind me today as a colour poster featuring three Professional Engineers backed by many different examples of infrastructure and technology. This poster was also a breakthrough for me as it is difficult to effectively illustrate the comprehensive role of Professional Engineers in one poster.

We now have this iconic colour poster bearing the title of “Professional Engineers Mastermind Technology” which we plan to feature in an ongoing way as we publicise the role of Prof. Engineers in the general community over coming years.

Professional Engineers Week operated successfully across Australia for the second half of the 1980s. It included activities like having special displays in bank foyers to illustrate the role and achievements of Prof. Engineers as well as coloured supplements in major daily newspapers. Also, there were the BHP Ingenuity Games with Spaghetti Bridges and Mousetrap Racers competitions held amongst primary, secondary and tertiary students with prizes given out for the winners.

Over the years since the early days of the EA Media and Publicity Sub-committee we have evolved the Ingenieurs Australia Society to be a Public Relations and Fraternal Society for all Professional Engineers in Australia – regardless of which other societies and institutions they belong to. At some suitable time in the future, the IngAust Society will seek to affiliate with Engineers Australia as it is the mother ship for the Engineering Team in Australia of Prof. Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Associates / Technical Officers.

About a year ago, the IngAust Society noticed on LinkedIn the observance of Professional Engineers Day across the USA which seemed a great idea to help publicise the role of Prof. Engineers in the general community.

Hence we now have the first Professional Engineers Day in Australia, today, on 18 August 2021. We hope you are enjoying the Day and it would be great if it could become an annual event and go from strength to strength. Hopefully, with more and more Professional Engineers and their employers becoming involved to promote Prof. Engineers and the achievements they make for their employers and for the community at large.

Also, encouraging Professional Engineers to speak out about engineering issues of interest to the general community like the circular economy for manufacturing and other areas as well as promoting a sustainable mother earth for us all to enjoy living on.

Happy Professional Engineers Day!

Presented by : Ing. Kelvin Lillingstone-Hall, FIEAust, CPEng. 18 August 2021.