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How do Humanitarian Engineering Skills Apply to the Australian Infrastructure Sector?

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Australia is significantly underutilising its potential to expand the social and environmental benefits of infrastructure projects. Skills gaps relating to sustainability, appropriate technology and community empowerment are prevalent across Australia's engineering industry. Humanitarian Engineering (HE), a relatively new engineering field that addresses social and environmental sustainability through human-centred design, can help build the skillsets to address a significant number of these gaps. Existing HE research is heavily education-focused and has not directly translated skills to the Australian infrastructure industry. This research project builds upon the current engineering literature to define and understand how Australian professionals can strategically apply the HE skillsets generally used in international development for the power, water, energy, transport and built environment sectors.

Critical gaps in the Australian STEM sector, including value creation skills and non-automatable skills identified from the Australian Government National Skills Commission, are mapped against HE skills identified in a keyword analysis of community development, design thinking, and engineering literature. Five major skill areas were derived: interpersonal, explorative, creative, logical and technical. Mapping these skill areas, sub-area skill themes, and specific keywords in a comprehensive visual network revealed the nuances of communication, inquiry, conceptualisation and empathy in HE.

This framework provides deep insights into how future educators, policymakers and infrastructure professionals can utilise HE practice to advance the sustainable development of Australia through more holistically planned infrastructure. This research will help shape the development of HE in Australia through direct links with Engineers Without Borders Australia's Technology Development Department and Community Program.

Jess Coldrey

BA, BVA, MSc in progress

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