A Role for Senior Professional Engineers in Australia

“Perspectives on a Role for Senior Professional Engineers”
by Dr. Ing. Ian Rankin Kerr FIEAust CPEng
Chair, Senior Engineers Group Engineers Australia – Victoria Division
July 2011

What is the key role for the Professional Engineer in society? I believe that role is to provide engineering service with the community firmly in mind. While the nature and type of service may take many forms as diverse as designing, building and maintaining infrastructure for cities or in designing and constructing artificial limbs for patients, the essence of engineering is the economic delivery of an engineering infrastructure, service or product to meet the needs of the community.

The road to delivery of the infrastructure, service or product requires engineering research, design and development, and their application to construction, manufacture or installation. Senior Professional Engineers are responsible for leading and managing the processes and systems involved, and they need to be well-qualified, highly-trained and experienced. These competencies and their maintenance are set and monitored by The Institution of Engineers Australia (Engineers Australia) and are recognized by the award of the Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) qualification. The competencies are fundamentally underpinned by the Professional Engineer’s adherence to the Institution’s ethical professional framework which governs a Professional Engineer’s thinking and behaviour leading to conduct that promotes a holistic and sustainable approach to engineering problems and their solutions.

It is the exercise of ethical behaviour in any field of engineering that uniquely defines a Professional Engineer from others and which is the foundation for building trust with client and community. In essence, ethical behaviour is the guarantor of professional integrity and independence, and of the continuance of the profession of engineering.

For the future, Senior Professional Engineers will aim to be at the forefront of leadership of their profession and be actively involved in promoting its values and objectives. While globalisation of engineering is not a new phenomenon, in the age of the internet, it now requires Senior Professional Engineers to perform in ways that require additional skills and systems-based approaches. Key among these, Senior Professional Engineers need to develop strategic vision for their enterprises, and form innovative partnerships dedicated to raising community standards of living. They will become proactively involved in providing leadership and guidance for determining public policy, in defining the research agenda on emerging technologies, and in the provision and maintenance of physical and social infrastructure, new products and services.

Senior Professional Engineers need to acquire technological and management expertise of world-class standing, be integrators who can operate and manage projects across borders and boundaries in a complex business environment and who, as change-agents, provide the creativity, innovation and leadership to serve their communities. In essence, Senior Professional Engineers will be entrepreneurs skilled in developing, differentiating and marketing their capabilities in service to the community.