Going to EESD 13 – still rethinking the engineer

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I'm off to EESD 13 this week – just to listen, and to represent ELSA ; the English Learning and Sustainability Alliance.   This is the conference blurb:

Much progress has been made over the last decade in introducing concepts of sustainable development into both undergraduate and post graduate engineering curriculum.  Many specialist lecture courses and even whole programmes have emerged which have steadily gained acceptance alongside the more traditional skills associated with the physical sciences.  However there is still a need to educate and develop a new kind of engineer who can add to the familiar analytical problem solving skills  new approaches to deal with wicked and messy problems, and who can apply a wider set of choice or assessment criteria when formulating solutions.  It is also increasingly recognized that those trained in the physical and biological sciences, as well as those involved in policy analysis and design, can be valuable partners with engineers in formulating and implementing policies to foster sustainable development.  For this reason, this conference welcomes an expansion of this series of engineering education conferences to include those working in these allied fields. In this way, engineering would be conceived of as a broad, all-encompassing term, going beyond the technical realm.

Engineers and associated professionals need to be educated to understand the effects of issues such complexity, uncertainty, environmental limits, social acceptability, and full whole life cost accountability.  In addition they need to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage across a broad spectrum of policy, governance and ethical dimensions.  To achieve these goals there is a fundamental need to rethink the engineers role and contribution in society, the skills needed to be effective, and how University education can help deliver a reconfiguration of an engineer’s professional outlook and responsibilities.

Just so.  I had rather hoped that all this might be common ground across engineering in universities by now, as these points were being made (including by me in a talk I gave to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2008) a while back.  We shall see.

The theme of this conference, the 6th in the series, will be ‘Rethinking the Engineer’, and it will ...

... explore how to develop the new skills needed by engineers so they can be more effective in dealing with messy problems in an increasingly complex and constrained world.  A key theme will also be to reflect on how successful graduates who have received a sustainable development education have been in their subsequent working lives, as well as how useful their wider approach has been to their employers.  The conference is the premiere forum for the dissemination of new advances in the evolution of sustainable development thinking in young engineers and associated professionals and will bring together students, academics, graduates and practitioners to rethink the professional engineer’s role and responsibilities in modern society.

There is a strong University of British Columbia contingent attending, which is one of the reasons I'm going.  More later ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response