IPWEA’s newest Community of Practice, Young IPWEA (representing under-35 and less experienced members) was a strong focus of the 2013 International Public Works Conference in Darwin – particularly on the final day of sessions, fittingly finishing off the highly successful event with a glimpse of the bright future ahead for the sector.
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In a supersession themed “Attracting and retaining young engineers”, Young IPWEA Chair Kim Sedgwick, Operations Manager (Systems) at ARRB delivered the day’s opening address, followed by a keynote address from recruitment specialist Kim Seeling Smith, founder and Chief at Ignite Global.
Seeling Smith then facilitated a panel discussion with three Young IPWEA members from rural Australia, Melanie Giacomin (Young Shire, NSW), Jo O’Brien (Tonkin Consulting) and Rebecca Clothier (Boorowa Council, NSW).
“My advice to managers would be to let your young engineers go out and try things themselves. If they’re on the wrong path, let them kick their toe – then say, we’re here to help,” said Clothier. “There is room for mistakes. Give [young engineers] a go.”
That afternoon’s Young IPWEA session drew inspiration from the famous Isaac Newton quote, with the paraphrased theme: “Lend us your shoulder so we can see the future”.
Young IPWEA NSW Chair, Anthony McMahon grabbed the audience’s attention by first asking for a show of hands from organisations which had young people among their staff members – followed up by asking how many of those had brought those young colleagues along with them to the conference: just a small proportion of the original, revealing an obvious area for improvement.
“A lot of managers get scared that their young professionals will get poached when they come to conferences, but that’s not the case for me. I find it really valuable,” explained Young IPWEA Chair, Kim Sedgwick.
“The way you learn from networking with your peers is really valuable and I think that needs to be recognised by managers,” she said.
IPWEA recognised five Emerging Leaders at the IPWEA 2013 Excellence Awards presented at the conference, including Anthony McMahon (Boorowa Council, NSW), along with Cameron Ives (GenEng Solutions, Qld), Ernie Icolaro (City of West Torrens, SA), Oliver Heywood (Brighton Council, Tasmania) and Robert Ladd (Pyrenees Shire Council, Vic).
But it wasn’t all serious for the Young IPWEA crew up at Darwin. There was a special reception for international delegates and under-35s, followed by Welcome Reception at Crocosaurus Cove on the Sunday before the technical sessions kicked off, providing a light-hearted opportunity to network with both peers and the locals – including a couple of pythons, central bearded dragons and a freshwater crocodile. IPWEA President Paul Di Iulio took this networking opportunity one step further by getting up close and personal with Chopper, Crocosaurus Coves’ resident 800kg saltwater crocodile. Arguably a highlight of the entire conference, Sedgwick joked.
And then there was the outdoor Wave Pool, which offered an irresistible backdrop to the conference location at the Darwin Convention Centre…