Enthusing about the present, inspiring the future

27 March 2015

Every two years EEMUA holds its flagship 'Collaborate' event for members. This year the theme was 'Industrial assets: safer and longer operations'. Sessions and presentations covered a wide range of aspects of industrial asset management from ageing electrical assets to considering the effect of age on plastic and composite items.

It was my first time attending Collaborate as Chief Executive, but what could have been a daunting experience was made much easier by the hard work of the EEMUA staff, the expertise of the presenters, and, most of all, the enthusiasm of the participants. I use the word participants” rather than “attendees” deliberately; the latter term gives an image of people dozing quietly as the learned lecturer speaks over the heads of the students. That is not how EEMUA works. The presenters were listened to, questioned, and, in some cases, challenged. They usually left the sessions as excited as the audience. I will let you into a secret. Often at events the organisers will ask a few select audience members to ask pre-prepared questions at the end of a presentation. That way, the presenter is not faced with an awkward silence at the end of their talk. This was not needed at any of the Collaborate sessions; usually the struggle was to draw things to a close and many conversations continued during the coffee breaks and meals.

At the closing panel session a question from the floor was “How do we attract and retain the best students to engineering?” One of my thoughts was instantly “bring them to events like this”. All too often there can seem to be a gaping chasm between the status of 'engineer' and 'technical expert'. Events such as Collaborate help provide that bridge as new entrants into a role acquire the skills, experience, and specialist knowledge that they can use to build and demonstrate competence. More importantly, the evident enthusiasm for the subject shone through from everyone there. I was pleased to see one member company's managers had thought the same thing and sent recent hires as part of their staff development.

I sometimes wonder if EEMUA’s reputation for expertise is a double-edged sword and our potential role in developing that expertise is forgotten. For those who’ve taken that first step, and become an engineer – congratulations! There are many paths you could take to developing your technical expertise still further. EEMUA can provide the start of some of them. Whether your interests lie in subsea materials, storage tanks, or some other technical discipline, EEMUA can help you take that next step.

But don’t expect to just sit quietly while someone talks over your head.

Stefan Kukula
EEMUA Chief Executive