Is the 'Golden Age' for engineering now?

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As Covid-19 has swept across the globe, engineers have been lending their equipment and expertise to the healthcare industry. Biomedical engineers have been dubbed the ‘hidden heroes’ of the crisis, while aerospace engineers have turned their attention from telescopes to ventilators. In an event that we never could have planned for, these fast-thinking problem-solvers have proven just how transferable their analytical approach and technical knowledge can be.

Over the last few months, many of us have been reconsidering our priorities, the direction that our professional lives are heading in, and whether it’s time for the next step. With experts predicting a notable shift in the way the industry operates, it’s an exciting time to consider what it has to offer.

A time for change
It’s no secret that the pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses within the domestic supply chain – but that’s not necessarily bad news. In fact, 40 per cent of engineers believe that the sector will re-emerge on the other side with a strengthened, stronger-than-ever supply chain. In order to get the ball rolling, the sector is calling out for forward-thinking engineers that are ready to step up and start making significant change.

The same poll revealed that, unsurprisingly, 26 per cent of respondents expect to see increased adoption of automated tools – a change that was already happening, but rarely a priority. Digitisation must, and will be, accelerated over the coming years. From initial processes, through to manufacture and distribution, automation builds resilience to disruption. 

Let’s take the use of cobots, for example. Under the strict health and safety restrictions put in place to ensure safe social distancing, cobots have ensured assembly lines have continued to run smoothly with plenty of space between human employees. It’s a technology that was already sitting on the side lines but pushed into the spotlight at a time when we have few better alternatives. And, as a result, it’ll likely change our perception of automation forever.

External influences
Despite being in the midst of the transition phase, Brexit has been pushed aside to allow the pandemic to take centre stage. Admittedly, until we begin to ease of the transition phase, the full effects of Brexit may not kick in – but it will undoubtedly play a huge role in influencing the future of the engineering and manufacturing industries.

Back in May, Nissan relocated their main European production plant from Barcelona to Sunderland, much to the relief of its UK workers. Previously, Jaguar Land Rover had also announced its decision to build its electric vehicles in the UK. But there’s an element of uncertainty here, as proposals could still be rejected if the latest Brexit deal falls through and we see a revision to the World Trade Organisation’s rules and regulations.

Our future engineers must be resilient, unafraid of change and willing to try their hand at whatever new challenge arises. As an engineer, you’ll need to think critically, identify flaws and quickly devise a solution. Pair these fundamental skills with the technical knowledge needed to excel in your field, and you’ll be flying – no matter the direction the industry is headed in.

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