The engineering industry, as the primary designer and implementer of solutions, must advocate its priorities and secure its place and role in decision-making to benefit the public, businesses and society through effective infrastructure, says American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) transportation programmes director Matt Reiffer.
Engineering organisations, especially, are central in encouraging, enabling and empowering engineers or engineering company members to raise their opinions with policymakers and in public forums to ensure the industry fulfils its role in the development of effective, sustainable infrastructure, he notes.
Additionally, the formation of coalitions between related industries' organisations, such as engineering, construction, materials suppliers and labour, can also help to maintain the importance of infrastructure development programmes in the minds of decision-makers, civil servants and policymakers.
"Coalitions resonate with decision-makers owing to the broad interests and stakeholders represented. Similarly, it is also very effective when engineers or organisations showcase projects to decision-makers, showing them the new highway interchange and environmental or remediation work done and the economic impact of the development, as well as showing them a structurally deficient or obsolete bridge, for example," Reiffer says.
The engineering industry can provide solutions for environmental protection and remediation, and reducing emissions, which are some of the global challenges, and should work to ensure industry views are included in decisions.
The industry must also advocate for infrastructure development alongside other industries and stakeholders, such as economic development groups, chambers of commerce and the users of the infrastructure systems, thereby ensuring that lobbying represents a range of stakeholders and beneficiaries, he suggests.
Decisions will be taken even if the engineering industry is not represented within decision-making bodies and engineering organisations, such as the ACEC and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (Fidic), should work to empower members to advocate effectively, says Reiffer.
"At the ACEC, we provide members with online training materials to educate them about advocacy and engagement with policymakers and civil servants and have standard letters and forms that member companies can use for communicating with officials about their views. We also host conferences and networking events and provide information to members on how they can engage in the legislative or regulatory processes."
Industry organisations have a role to play in educating and equipping their members to effectively engage in decision-making processes. The ACEC aims to partner with Fidic, in which some of its member companies and leaders are involved, to support engineering industry advocacy to help shape the right policies for the betterment of the world and the profession, Reiffer concludes.