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Photo: This is Engineering

The ultimate problem solvers, Engineers Australia chief executive officer Bronwyn Evans says engineers will play a key role in building resilience during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

“When we think of the challenges of this phase, and the next phase of coming back to a full scale economy, engineers will look at those system-wide issues,” she told The Fifth Estate.

The supply chain is where disruption is being felt most acutely at the moment, but Evans warns it won’t be the only hurdle the property and construction industries will face.

“We’ll need to put in really quick measures to build temporary systems or quick designs.

“Skills in risk management mitigation and the ability to innovate stand the engineering profession in good stead as we face down the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Engineers will also be instrumental in driving greater domestic manufacturing, she says.

How engineering is holding up

The good news is that many engineering firms were already running distributed teams across Australia, so the transition to remote work hasn’t been too disruptive so far.

“No one set of ‘rules’ can be applied to every engineering business, but we are seeing restrictions being put on travel, critical roles identified, large events cancelled, and where possible work being done remotely.”

Evans says the design and planning phase can continue virtually uninterrupted because it’s possible to do remotely.

The pain will be felt further down the line, with disruptions to construction supply chains started to emerge earlier this month. Other problems for the sector include work slowing because people are unable to work or are abiding by social distancing guidelines of 1.5 metres.

“It can be done, but it will slow things down.”

The federal government’s economic stimulus package will provide some relief to construction companies.

Engineers Australia itself is responding by limiting events to a maximum of 50 to avoid over crowding and enable tracing. Online events will be explored to replace cancelled ones.

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