In discussing the significance of the engineer’s role in the construction industry today, Malcolm explains that the engineer plays a key role in the construction industry in Malta which is a multidisciplinary industry involving various professions and stakeholders.
Malcolm Zammit is the President of the Chamber of Engineers (CoE). At 30 years old, he is the youngest ever in a generation of Inginiera that have led this vibrant, forward-looking professional organisation.
At 30 years old, he is the youngest ever in a generation of Inginiera that have led this vibrant, forward looking professional organisation.
Malcolm is himself a warranted mechanical engineer; he feels the extensive responsibility that he has towards engineers and the profession, describing his mandate to lead this 43-year-old organisation, which continues to spearhead issues in favour of the profession, as ingrained in the “drawing of bridges between the younger generations of the profession including the students, and to continue sustaining the existing networks between the various generations which enrich the profession”.
As we are on the threshold of this second decade of the Millenium, Malcolm considers the CoE as being an even more forward-looking organisation, and with his role as President, he is seeking to bring forward renewal of the CoE and the profession, project a more accurate public image of the profession, and improve relations with members. The engineering profession has extensive potential and the CoE has an obligation to develop that potential into opportunities and growth. But, what is the raison d’etre of the CoE?
Malcolm is very incisive in his description of the core nature of the CoE, as the national professional organisation which caters for the interests of Maltese Engineers and the Engineering Profession.
The CoE was purposely founded to represent the interests of Engineers and advance the engineering profession in Malta. “This purpose is pursued on a daily basis so that the Chamber continues to be recognised as an essential, dynamic and professional engineering organisation which contributes significantly to the advancement of our society.” The Chamber seeks to serve as the natural home for engineers, providing for an idea exchange forum. The Chamber also promotes the code of ethics and fosters collegiality between members of the profession. Malcolm continues to explain the versatility of the Engineering profession.
Indeed, one tends to find engineers in different roles across the board of academic and applied research and innovation, and in various services and industries. Malcolm explains that the common factor, in an engineer’s academic and professional formation, that enables this professional versatility, lies in the fact that engineers hone some of the most versatile skill sets, due to the fact that the practice of engineering is applied across an extensively varied number of economic sectors in society. Therefore, the academic training and formation of an engineer should provide a toolbox which is useful in multiple scenarios. In considering the Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.) degrees offered nationally, we find that the course programme covers a breadth of subjects in engineering into which one may delve into further depths at later stages of studying (e.g. postgraduate studies).
Key skills of systematic thinking, problem solving, data analysis, research methods and engineering fundamentals are a necessary part of the engineer’s profile which find use in many sectors and real-world applications.
Malcolm speaks with palpable pride of the CoE’s longstanding Malta Engineering Excellence Awards (MEEAs) which are a successful, major annual event in the calendar of the Chamber, the profession and other relevant stakeholders. The MEEAs have been running for just more than 20 years and originated due to the need to recognise engineering efforts for the benefit of society. These awards recognise both individuals and organisations for their engineering contributions to our society. Essentially, the awards serve as a medium to channel the efforts being carried out in the industry and project them towards the general public as a way to increase awareness of engineering and the role it plays within society.
In discussing the significance of the engineer’s role in the construction industry today, Malcolm explains that the engineer plays a key role in the construction industry in Malta which is a multidisciplinary industry involving various professions and stakeholders. The engineer in a construction project is responsible for a number of aspects such as building services design, commissioning and maintenance, building energy and performance certification, fire, lighting, ventilation and acoustics. This list is not exhaustive and simply indicates the breadth of activities which the engineer performs.
The present and future trends of the industry are expected to make the engineer’s role an even more significant one. Buildings are becoming more complex and high-rise buildings are becoming more common in Malta. These projects are becoming more critical and need engineers to consider the mechanical and electrical aspects of the building at the very early stages of the building design. Thus, the CoE and industry stakeholders need to continue their activity to improve the standards in building and construction through the professional services of an engineer throughout the project.
But, what are the challenges and opportunities presented to the Engineering Profession in the delivery of completed projects? Malcolm explains that any project, in any kind of sector, is expected to have its own set of challenges. The engineering profession can make a difference in such projects since engineers are, first and foremost, solution-oriented. In view of these challenges, the engineer needs to self-regulate one’s own professional activity, notwithstanding any pressures which may be experienced throughout the project, and continue promoting standards of practice in Malta, ethics and compliance within a project. In terms of opportunities, engineers can continue to distinguish themselves professionally, and continue to promote cross-profession collaboration within such projects, given that, they are fully aware that a system is designed to function thanks to multiple elements.
“drawing of bridges between the younger generations of the profession including the students, and to continue sustaining the existing networks between the various generations which enrich the profession”.
Furthermore, engineers should remain driven to work for the benefit of society and they should see that projects are designed and delivered while keeping in mind the various spheres of sustainability. Our discussion also focused on the recent increasing spate of occupational accidents, particularly on construction sites, several of which are regrettably fatal. Malcolm pointed to the active advocacy of the CoE in favour of occupational health and safety; indeed the engineering profession warrant is tied to the safeguard of public health and safety and so are other professional warrants. In this regard, the CoE has issued timely calls to authorities as required and has also issued statements in collaboration with other organisations.
The CoE has also given direct feedback to the Government of Malta, regarding the need to ensure that an engineer is involved in the development process from the inception of the project to secure the highest professional standards. The CoE will continue working to address anomalies in the occupational health and safety subsidiary legislation with regard to what constitutes a competent person, as the CoE feels that it is engineers who should be engaged for certification of any type of working equipment including that used in the construction industry. This multifaceted problem requires re-thinking for an effective and long-term solution. In this regard, the CoE has always supported calls for reform in the building and construction sector of Malta to ensure accountability and safety at all stages of a construction project. Safety issues can certainly be avoided if the players in the industry work ethically and in line with regulations. It is in such spirit that more regulations are required for this sector, and such regulations need to be enforced.
Malcolm opines that the built environment in Malta has changed drastically during the past years in view of a strong wave of construction projects in the building and construction sector and which is not expected to slow down anytime soon. There seems to be a clear focus on economics and stock the aspects of the built environment, but the built environment is so much more than financial reward.
We need the re-think the ways we approach construction so that our built environment in Malta becomes one which balances the implications on the environment, people and the economy. We certainly do not need to scrape the bottom to start taking action and action will need to be taken over a number of years. A vision for the existing building stock and the future of buildings needs to be delivered by the country’s administration.
Reflecting on the future of the Engineering profession from the national and European perspective Malcolm is adamant that the Engineering Profession will continue to be a catalyst for innovation, which innovation knows no boundaries or geographical territories.
In this regard, engineering will remain an influential profession in Malta and across Europe.
The challenges in Malta and Europe are somewhat similar, which is, that not enough young people are being attracted towards engineering, indeed all STEM subjects and studies, in general (STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and as such, the continent is risking a vacuum of important professionals for a sustainable future. Any future-looking society needs engineers to not only address today’s problems but think about solutions for tomorrow’s problems.
On the advantage of the CoE’s endorsement of the RUUMS platform for the association and its members, Malcolm, in referring to the RUUMS proposal as a comprehensive gateway for professionals working in the building and construction industry, positions engineers as key players in this industry. The CoE expects that RUUMS will be giving more visibility to such engineers while supporting the CoE in the education of the public. Members of the CoE have another opportunity for networking and exposure to career opportunities in the construction industry in Malta. “This initiative which is in its early days offers an opportunity for further growth.”