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Management training is vital for civil engineers says Trevor Simms

TO SUCCEED in civil engineering in the next millennium all civil engineers will need management skills. Training will become a key requirement.

The ICE recognises this need in its New Routes to Membership. The enhanced academic courses will address management topics more fully. At the Professional Review, aspiring Technician, Associate and full Members will have to provide evidence of supervision, management and leadership skills.

But the need for civil engineers to possess management skills is not new. In the Victorian heyday of the profession, leading civil engineers were responsible for promoting their projects in Parliament and constructed complex feats of engineering without today's computers, faxes or mobile phones.

The design of any project, however simple, requires management input to see it through to completion. The designer needs to know the client's requirements before technical design work can begin; the method of procurement must be decided; construction on site needs to be supervised so the finished product complies with the specification.

Even a junior engineer needs management skills, to communicate with other members of the team. The more complex the project and senior the engineer, the more management skills are required. These skills are appropriate in all branches of the profession.

Projects are ever more complex and most now involve multi-disciplinary design teams in close contact with other construction professionals. Initiatives such as PFI and BOOT projects also require civil engineers to work in partnership with other professions. With the right management training civil engineers have the opportunity to lead such teams.

Environmental concerns and the need for sustainability require civil engineers to become involved in issues wider than pure engineering. There are opportunities to be involved in the long-term operation and maintenance of the projects they create, if they possess appropriate management skills.

All these changes reflect the increasing demands industry is placing on professional civil engineers. Management skills are vital to carrying out the role effectively and it will soon be a core part of the profession.

Trevor Simm represents the ICE management board on the Civil Engineering Manager of the Year award judging panel.

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