Engineering Rebellion

A new ICE report tackles the question: who is the future civil engineer and how can the institution adapt to embrace them?

Engineering Rebellion identified digital transformation as one of six strategic trends affecting the sector
Engineering Rebellion identified digital transformation as one of six strategic trends affecting the sector

Who is the future civil engineer and how does ICE adapt to embrace them? Early last year, a steering group was set up to debate the possible answers. This report is the culmination of those discussions. Its title, Engineering Rebellion, reflects the fact that answering the question has the potential to be transformative for individual civil engineers, the wider engineering profession, the construction and infrastructure industry, and ICE itself.

Today’s civil engineers are facing very different challenges from their counterparts of even a decade ago. They work in an industry that is striving to deliver sustainable solutions, exploit technological advances and deal with the existential threat of climate change.

Engineering Rebellion therefore set out to assess the economic, political, environmental, social, cultural and technical developments that are changing the construction and infrastructure industry and will shape the work of this and future generations of civil engineers.

The study team carried out a literature review and tested its assumptions with more than 700 people. This work identified six strategic trends affecting the sector:

  • The climate crisis and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Accelerating digital transformation
  • Flatlining productivity
  • Growing complexity and uncertainty
  • Competition for the future workforce and the demand for greater diversity
  • Value replacing volume as the basis for rewards

Through analysing these trends, the team identified seven big disrupters of the engineering profession’s current profile, skill set and behaviours:

  • Net zero and sustainability benefits will become central to project outcomes
  • Business models will demand greater collaboration to deliver more value through the asset lifecycle
  • Diversity – people will need to come into the industry from a much wider set of routes and backgrounds
  • Digital will create a demand for people with the adaptability needed to understand and work with a wide and rapidly changing set of digital technologies
  • Productivity will need to improve rapidly. Engineers will need to master the skills and behaviour that will allow innovative practices, techniques and materials to be deployed
  • Systems thinking will be needed at the project, network and system of systems levels
  • Upskilling will be constant – civil engineers will need to adopt a proactive attitude to lifelong learning

With all of this mind, Engineering Rebellion’s response to the question of how ICE should embrace the future civil engineer is to challenge the institution to think differently – to focus as much on the infrastructure team as the individual civil engineer. The review believes that ICE needs to understand how it will support civil engineers to work more effectively in the multidisciplinary teams that will deliver the work that meets the future needs of society.

Download the Engineering Rebellion report

Download the Literature Review

Download five future scenarios

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