Inspire : Public Works Sept Oct 2012
exPerience tHe busH It’s no secret that the skills shortage in the engineering discipline in Australia is a national cr isis. Nowhere are these shor tages being felt more keenly than in regional councils around the countr y. In order to combat staffing constraints, some councils ar e advocating for a national exchange program designed to encourage younger engineer s to work collaboratively and develop capacity across the industr y. Boorowa Council Assistant General Manager Anthony McMahon is one who would applaud such a program, which he says was first mooted at a NSW IPWEA conference in Coffs Harbour in May. “I am at a small rural council, and we have difficulty attracting skilled engineering staff,” he says. “ We also struggle to keep up with the work load, which is why we sometimes engage consu lta nt s. “I would certainly prefer the alternative – for a young engineer to come out to the bush and do a bit of everything rather than being pigeonholed in a city council. At the same time, this arrangement would also allow my young trainee [Rebecca Clotheir] to get a taste of bigger councils and gain exper ience on major projects that she would have limited exposure to out in the bush,” he says. McMahon says such a program would be mutually beneficial to both par ties when it came to broadening their experience. The 28-year-old, who has worked in the private sector as well as a larger regional council, says he took the job at Boorowa, an hour north of Canberra, for two reasons: to provide a stable family life for his wife and three children; and to broaden his own experience in order to progress his career within the local gover nment sector. “In a larger city council, you might have an individua l engineer for each department: assets, stor mwater, development, water and sewerage, and works,” he says. “Here, at Boorowa, I fulfill all of those roles, along with the role of director of engineering and director of corporate services. “Oppor tunities to engage with the community are a critical part of personal development within local government and any engineer who came here on an exchange program would benefit from that.” On the IPWEA Ask Your Mates forum, McMahon called for individuals to express interest in spending a week or two in Boorowa to work on a new Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan (PAMP). He said his call-out to other councils generated zero interest from engineers or technologists, which is why he believes an exchange scheme needs to be a formally recognised program. I’d like to see a system where councils could get online and register their interest in the exchange program and what type of specialist skill set they require. The person doing the administrative legwork could then help facilitate the connections,” he says. “ There needs to be someone officially coordinating the program – both to alleviate the administrative burden and to drum up a bit of excitement between councils inter ested in forging a productive relationship.” IPWEA CEO Chris Champion says the idea of a regional exchange program has merit and is one of many possible avenues the industry could pursue. coverstorY 22 Public Works Professional September-October 2012 in a larger city council, you might have an individual engineer for each department: assets, stormwater, development, water and sewerage, and works. Here, at boorowa, i fulfill all of those roles. Young engineers would be welcome at many bush councils such as Boorowa.
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