National Past President John Reid gave a short presentation at the sit-down lunch on Thursday of the conference, that raised issues that are of a concern to many members and his talk prompted a considerable amount of discussion.
The speech is printed below.
John walked to the stage to music and a very graphic presentation on the screen. He began by describing where the sound and images had derived from.
The music, the fonts and the words on the screen are derived from The Avengers series of films. The film characters and plots are based around this statement:
The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more.
This is the objective of AITPM and these national conferences and the same words inspire Austraffic’s World Wide Learning Opportunity (WWLO) program.
This WWLO program specifically sends young professionals to other countries and cultures to engage in discussions and get a different perspective on how they’re doing things.
As a profession we have not always effectively engaged with stakeholders. We have used buzz words that can mean anything to anyone. We have, at times let ideology overpower information or just focused on bums on seats, not customer needs, let alone sustainable planning.
At a recent transport conference in Sydney, Collette Burke the Chief Engineer for Victoria raised two critical issues that she felt we must address.
1. good working environments and staff health, and
2. declining skills in government
I believe that these two are integrally related.
A healthy work environment has these three objectives:
1. To benefit the customers and enhance the nurturing of staff.
2. Focusedto create an opportunity for staff to be heard and respected.
3. Actionedto create an opportunity for staff to grow and to learn.
Currently, however, research and technical understanding is playing second fiddle to on-the-spot opinions shouted by those with little or no depth of thought. The Stan network has just presented the series “The Loudest Voice”. It is an expression that could represent much of the what appears in the media and in policy debates these days.
There is clearly a marked decline in reasoning and respect for considered analysis.
We cannot go back to the “good old days” whatever that means. We need expanding skills and strategies to tackle the environment, embrace honourable objectives and make the greatest use of developing technologies.
There is no better place to start, than with our young professionals.
For this reason, 3 years ago, Austraffic initiated and funded the World Wide Learning Opportunities program. This is not just a training exercise for young people to learn what we older people think we already know. Life throws up many questions that are not covered in any syllabus.
With our support 7 young people have travelled from Australia & New Zealand to global conferences and events. The 6threcipient, Tyler O'Hare, travelled to Washington D.C. to attend the TRB annual meeting.
He reflected afterward that he was:
“Overwhelmed and nervous with the thought of attending a conference with 10,000 other professionals, however, in the space of 6 days those nerves had diminished, and he was confidently speaking with international Engineers and navigating his way through the maze that is the Washington D.C Conference Centre.
We backed Joel Docker of Vicroads to go to the Australasian Transport Research Forum in NZ to present a paper he co-authored.
Sam Linke of Aurecon, who has degrees in engineering and the History and Philosophy of Science was given the opportunity to go to Toronto for the ITE annual meeting and exhibit. Sam reflected, It was a chance to go beyond what she recognised In her usual professional environment and open new frontiers of thought and network.
We have not just given these 7 young professionals a chance to go overseas but also helped them when they come back to present and discuss what they have learnt.
The need for expansive thinking has never been more critical.
As the Victorian Chief Engineer highlighted, we need healthy, strong professionals, in all levels of government. This is more than the self-interest of defending our livelihoods. Our future is being derailed by vague generalisations, short-term popularity and mass data of unknown quality.
This is of course something that is at the heart of the AITPM and what our volunteers have supported for some 53 years, to provide an environment of learning and opportunity.
Austraffic is proud to continue its sponsorship of AITPM and in particular this 22ndawards luncheon. It is with increasing pride that I and Austraffic maintain our continued support of developing this marvelous profession and as always, the future is with our next generation.
Details of the WWLO program are available from our website. If you are under 35 you may wish to consider applying for a grant.
The website also features audio of the interviews that many of the recipients have participated upon return. Each is entertaining and refreshing and highlights the value created by introducing our young professionals to the global community. I look forward to other industry organisations supporting this now established and worthwhile program.