If Not Now, Then When?
Together with our international movement of Engineers Without Borders organizations, we’re applauding the proposed updates to the international framework on graduate attributes and professional competencies for engineers, and the recognition that engineers need to evolve in order to tackle 21st century challenges.
But a key component is missing — to address this century’s complex problems, engineers must also be able to reflect on and think critically about the role of engineering itself.
At Engineers Without Borders Canada we have been using our influence to support the development of engineering competencies for some time, with a particular interest in those that define how engineers are educated at university. We have always recognised that for engineers to fulfill their higher potential and contribute to addressing the urgent social and environmental challenges we face, the current proposed ‘engineering fundamentals’ and competencies are missing vital elements, namely, competencies encouraging an engineer’s ability to reflect on and think critically about the role of engineering itself.
Time is of the essence.
Scientific and political communities from around the world have agreed and demonstrated through international targets such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that we have ten years to make a difference to the future of our planet. Not least to stop irreversible climate change and biodiversity loss, but to ensure we live on a planet where all people have access to necessities that engineering is fundamental in enabling.
But the engineering community is not doing enough.
To influence systemic change across the sector, Engineers Without Borders International and Engineers Without Borders organizations from Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, the Netherlands, the Philippines, UK and USA, are calling for three core competencies to be universally incorporated into the benchmark values:
- Emphasis on critical thinking as a fundamental cornerstone of engineering competence – critically analysing and critiquing the role of engineering, its relationship with humanity, and its impact on our past and potential futures.
- Deeper comprehension of the ethical issues inherent in engineering due to the relationship between engineering, people and the planet, and greater focus on developing the skills necessary to navigate these complex issues.
- Broader appreciation for the knowledge needed to make effective engineering judgements, including explicitly acknowledging the value of the social sciences in helping engineers understand the implications of their work.
To further this effort we would welcome the opportunity to work closely with the International Engineering Alliance and other groups to support this crucial shift to the engineering mindset.
We have no planet B and time is running out.