All Member Forum

National Engineers Week 2020

By Mr. Matthew Bennett posted 02-18-2020 12:36 PM


Now is truly an exciting time to be in the transport industry in Melbourne, Australia. Not only do we have a plethora of mega-projects in various stages of planning and construction, but even within the past decade, the way people move around the city has dramatically changed. We saw the rise and eventual fall of the blue docked bicycle sharing scheme, the cancelation of a $5.3 billion project, the brief, but incredibly disruptive appearance of dockless bikes, the arrival of Uber, swiftly followed by many other rideshare apps, upsetting the long established taxi industry, and the recent announcements of a flying rideshare service and an e-bike sharing scheme.

While all this has been happening locally, it is very much part of a global trend of people change their expectations, redefining the rules around how we travel, communicate and interact in our daily lives. Gone are the days of turning up at a railway station and examining a map pasted on to the wall to determine how you will get to your destination, or pulling out a large street directory, studying it as if cramming for an exam, and then relying on your memory to guide you to your destination. People now expect to be able get access to all the information that they need on their phone. For example, on my phone alone, I have 13 different apps from which I can choose from to get me to my destination depending on the specific needs of my journey. For me and many others like myself, even simply walking out the door without assessing options on my phone before leaving feels like an exciting, yet dangerous step into the unknown.

Feeding into this massive shake-up to the industry, growing concerns around the impact of the transport sector on climate change, and the impact of climate change on transport networks, the ever-growing presence of autonomous and connected vehicles on our transport networks, and the growth of alternative fuel sources for vehicles presents the industry with a series of challenges that need to be tackled at a global level.

It was into this industry stretched thin that I began my career, and within the short 18 months for which I have been working, I have met and spoken to fellow transport planners and traffic engineers all at various stages of their careers who have helped me find my feet and hit the ground running. Through participation of industry events such as the ones that ITE hosts, I have learnt about different parts of our diverse industry. I also began to feel that there was a strong sense of community among those in the transport industry in Melbourne into which I had been welcomed with open arms.

I was fortunate enough to find myself at the 2019 World Tunnelling Congress in Naples, Italy (a journey of which is a long story involving a $10 billion project, some trucks and a well-timed cold). At this conference, I was invited to attend the young members drinks which was hosted by the young members of the Italian branch of the International Tunnel Association on a boat on the Bay of Naples. At this event I met and spoke with tunnellers from all over the world. And while speaking to a Swiss man about growing lettuce in a basement, an Italian about crack identification in tunnels, and a Canadian about retaining walls were all surprisingly stimulating conversations, I couldn’t help but think, what if this boat was full of transport engineers? Attending this event opened my eyes to the benefits of being part of a truly international community of young professionals who are united in their passion for their field of engineering.

Returning to Melbourne, I couldn’t help but chase this dream. This happened to coincide with the establishment of YITE (Young ITE) in the ITE-ANZ section. Eight months into YITE, we have a strong membership base of passionate professionals and students in Melbourne, with plans to continue our expansion across Australia and New Zealand. Through my involvement with YITE, I have been given the opportunity to meet and work with fellow young ITE members, developing a network of people who are equally passionate about transport as I am. It is with these people that I hope to contribute to a better society through improved transport systems. However, taking my experience in Naples on board, I would like to see this expanded even further. As I mentioned at the start of this piece, there are many challenges facing our industry, but there are also great opportunities to learn from, and connect with others around the world who are facing or have faced similar problems within their own countries and work together to build a better future.