The engineering industry plays a vital role to our day-to-days lives, from connecting us to the online world to keeping our homes warm. Our everyday lives wouldn’t be the same without engineering. But as time goes on, the demand on engineers in increasing. In this article, we’re taking a look at challenges facing the industry, and how the sector can tackle them.
Regulations stipulating a greener process are increasing by the day. As a result of government targets, the engineering sector must strive towards reducing its carbon output. Individual countries have outlined their own strategies for approaching this, to help conserve the world we live in. The UK government has stated it aims to reduce domestic carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050, based from the 1990 levels.
Construction in particular has built a reputation for its contributions to carbon emissions. Therefore, it’s a vital area for improvement to be focused on making the engineering behind it as ‘green’ as possible. From planning to building projects, eco-friendly construction engineering is a practice becoming frequently adopted by engineers in the design stages of new developments. From using innovative green materials, using resources effectively to minimise waste, and planning with an adaptability perspective, engineers will continue to incorporate sustainable practices into construction projects.
Of course, it’s not just on the earth’s surface that engineering takes place. Design and development advances have led to clear innovation in the machinery used for construction beneath the world’s oceans too. Fexible riser engineers use subsea machinery to target otherwise inaccessible areas to access resources such as oil and gas.. They also allow for the implementation of subsea cables for purposes such as WiFi connectivity. The underwater vessels responsible for the maintenance of these cables, such as ROVs and trenchers, are becoming increasingly streamlined to meet the ‘green’ goal when it comes to new construction projects. These new technologies are at the forefront of the world’s biggest engineering expos, showcasing environmentally considerate solutions.
Closing the STEM gap
There are also a number of current issues within the sector. There’s a growing call to tackle the issue of engineering as a gendered vocation, and the current imbalance is impacting those who steer the sector in their everyday vocations. The industry has a lack of diversity, and this is reflected by the fact that only 12% of women out of the 47% which make up the current workforce, are in engineering roles. While STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) gaps are evident across the board, the attitudes which fuel them can certainly be resolved.
There has been progress in this area though. Highlighting the issues of gender inequality in engineering type industries at regular conferences, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) aim to diminish the gap as they continue to make a presence on their own at International Women in Engineering day each year. Since 2017, there’s been an increase of more than 44,000 women in STEM positions, with a further 25% boost in the number of professional women engineers.
With a reliance on international skill, Brexit could see the scope for future engineers narrow. As the UK enters a transitional period with the EU, new regulations could leave posts looking sparse. Research by EngineeringUK discovered that there is a high chance that universities could face difficulties when recruiting students from overseas, as well as experiencing a possible drop in funding. International collaborative projects might also take longer, as the UK’s new relationship with the EU looks set to mean more lengthy negotiations due to new restrictions.
The engineering industry is a critical element of day-to-day life. As a result, it falls onto the shoulders of those within the engineering sector to lead further advancements, taking on the challenge of meeting a widespread goal for reducing the global carbon output, improving workplace diversity, and navigating difficult climates.