Monday, March 25, 2019

Australia No Shortage of Engineers

Following on from politics of professions, and defining engineering, it should be clear that Australia does not have a shortage of engineers hindering the launch of potential mining and construction boom.

The construction is associated with the mining, it is the dependent infrastructure required by the mining activity. It includes bridges, roads and railways, and ports and harbours, and associated stormwater drainage and water resources management.There may also be need for storage and processing buildings along with offices. All established technologies with an established body of scientific knowledge concerned with planning, design, analysis, evaluation and management.

The mining is either open cut, underground. Underground mines seem to more typically have sloping access shafts than vertical shafts. The sloping shafts make it viable for vehicles to access the mine: thus trucks can be loaded in the mine. The alternative is a need for rail carts to be loaded or vertically raised skips. When these get to the surface they have to be unloaded, possibly onto belt conveyors and transferred to storage or loaded onto road vehicles for transport elsewhere. Thus extra handling compared to loading road vehicles in the mine. Though not all mines suitable for sloping access shafts. Any case the point is relatively ancient and established set of technologies, no "engineering" required.

Now it has been indicated in recent article I read, that there is increased use of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). New technology maybe, but not exactly as demanding as programming CNC machines, or programming PLC's. It is mostly plug and play technology, hooked up to the internet and controlled by software as a service. And it's not really new as sensors were added to remote belt conveyors some 20 years ago to monitor wear. Whilst factories, industrial plant and mechanical handling systems have been getting increasingly automated for decades. So once again no "engineering".

Just to be clear: Engineering takes place at the frontiers of science and technology.

Roads, Railways and Traffic Controls

Who as a member of the public believes it takes 4 years to learn how to design a road properly? If it takes 4 years to learn how to design a road, would you expect your local streets and roads to be the hazard they are?

Hopefully you agree it doesn't take 4 years, and if they do take 4 years then the roads should be better designed than they are. It does not take four years to learn the technical aspects of road design, the social, cultural, political and psychological aspects of road design may require further study but such are not covered. Since these latter subjects are not covered we have hazardous road network. In the current discussion however not concerned with demolishing the existing network and improving the network, just concerned with getting more of what we already have. Furthermore the roads concerned with are remote area roads, with heavy vehicular traffic and few users. Roads which once the resource is mined out will likely cease to be of any value.

Sure there are some roads in populated areas in the vicinity of ports and harbours. These roads may need widening to allow increased traffic flows, they may also need strengthening to carry higher loads. There will also be a need for modification and improvement to traffic control systems.

There will be need to assess the relative merits of road transport over rail transport. Railway locomotives can typically haul longer trains with heavier loads. Not aware of 1 km long road train. Once again road and railway technologies are established technologies with no need for "engineering".

For certain there is need for project specific drawings to be produced, and there are the so called "numbers" which need doing. But we as a society know what numbers, need doing. We don't have to survey learned journals to find new scientific theory, we don't have to devise a scientific hypothesis and conduct experiments to verify. The theory is established, and how it shall be applied to the established technologies is also established. Just have to look in the appropriate industry manuals, review regulations, and national codes of practice.

The people required are technicians, people conversant with the relevant tools and techniques for designing, analysing and evaluating proposed adaptations and implementations of the established technologies. If you don't like the generic meaning of technician, and prefer occupational classifications and refinement of words: then the people we need are Technologists, Associate Technologists, and Applied Scientists, Design Technicians and Trade Technicians, absolutely NOT Engineers.

Sure an engineer maybe able to do the job, but to be able to do so, they need a large amount of on the job training to become conversant with the established technology for which they will be held responsible. The point and purpose of educating and training the other occupations is that they are already conversant with the technology and how the science shall be applied to the design of such technology. Their education is not inferior to that of engineers, it is different, and better matched to the task at hand.

To reiterate my other essays. The 4 year B.Eng (AQF-8) typically consists of a common first year concerned with science and mathematics, leaving 3 years to cover some 2 to 5 major areas of practice. So that is 3/5ths to 1.5 years to cover each area of practice. So a programme in a specific area of practice can be designed to be a 2 year (AQF-6) or 3 years (AQF-7) programme. Such programmes if anything being superior to the 4 year B.Eng, because they provide greater coverage of the area of practice, more knowledge of the specific technologies. With all programmes having the same first year, an AQF-5 qualification in science and mathematics. Having the same foundation, it becomes easier to articulate to another area of practice.

Back to the roads and railways, these ribbons of impermeable surface pose a stormwater management problem. On the one hand stormwater needs to be managed around the roads and railways to prevent from getting inundated with water, which will hinder vehicle movement. On the other hand the road surface drains water to places it didn't previously flow.

So there are earthworks to be designed and managed during construction. There are materials to be provided to remote regions as well as people required for all the work: there are thus logistics problems to be solved. In a consulting organisation most of these tasks are carried out by different people, not by one person, but by teams of people. That is after graduation, someone with a B.Eng gets locked into a specific area of practice and specialises, and are typically hindered from moving to another area of practice: so a large part of their degree ceases to be of value. So industry not willing to retrain them in another area of practice and technology, and lack of appropriate study and qualification programmes to extend their knowledge themselves.

Thus there will be specialists in:

  1. Roads
  2. Railways
  3. Traffic Management and Controls
  4. Stormwater Drainage
  5. Earthworks & Geotechnology
  6. Bridges
  7. Construction
  8. Logistics
All of which are established areas of technology, with established bodies of science. For all of which it should be possible to design a 2 year programme to educate and train a suitably qualified Associate Technologist. This isn't entirely new, Australia's Engineering Associates were already so capable, until the 1980's, when Engineers Australia elitist objectives scuttled them. If really want an "engineer" to be in charge, then we have enough available already: as the majority are not doing anything remotely worthy of the description engineering.

With appropriate AQF-5 qualification in science and mathematics, the capabilities of many drafters, planners and other technical officers can be increased. With AQF-6 qualifications in specific areas of practice and technologies, then the capabilities of many practicing engineers can be improved, whilst an army of people with appropriate skills can be educated in the first instance. Those with the B.Eng will be able to fast track through the AQF-6 programmes as they will only need to study the those subjects extending the area of practice and covering the specific technology. Those with the AQF-5 will only require one year of extra study to articulate to a specific area of practice.

Consideration of Required Numbers

I have previously suggested the world land area be divided into cells 5 km in diameter, of which I get 7,585,452 such cells. The world population is approximately 7.53 billion, so would get around 993 persons per cell. {Though when looking at in detail cells should be hexagonal not circular}

For Australia there are 391,752 cells, most of these cells are not populated, but at least one park ranger and/or environmental scientist could be appointed to each cell. With population of 24,234,900 people, we could assign 62 people per cell.

I believe membership of Engineers Australia is around 100,000 members, and top heavy, biased towards B.Eng. I also believe it only represents about 30% of those who graduated in engineering. So there seems potential to appoint one civil engineer to each cell. On the other hand there is probably less than one third of the cells requiring any significant development over the period of 40 to 50 year career. Whilst the hub of a city may require more than one technical specialist, it does require not more than one engineer.

By comparison compare India: 167,419 cells, and population of 1,409,517,397, enabling 8,419 persons assigned to each cell. Plus it reportedly graduates 1 million engineers each year, so it definitely has the potential to assign 1 civil engineer to each cell in India and for that matter also each cell in Australia.

These people however don't need to be engineers, and need to work as part of a team. There appears to be around 2.8 million people between the age of 15 and 24 in Australia. So around 13.7% should  be studying:
  1. Surveying
  2. Cartography
  3. Environmental Science
  4. Agricultural Science
  5. Geotech
  6. Civil Infrastructure
Not sure how current system works. But those in grade 12 used to study either all arts and humanities subjects with one science subject, or all science subjects with one arts and humanities subject. My arts and humanities subject was geography, my science subjects were: maths 1&2 (otherwise known as double maths), physics and chemistry.

So my proposed AQF-5 would expand on grade 12 science and mathematics in one year, then a further year to AQF-6, would have people capable of contributing to the above areas of practice. Furthermore, such AQF-6 level academic programmes are also more appropriate to foreign students who are supported by their respective governments to go get an education and return to help develop the nation. 

Getting Side Tracked with Other Issues

Mapping and charting the continent of Australia and its resources: sure we have such data already, but individual development projects require more detailed information. Development requires identifying location for new roads and railways, water catchments and flood mitigation technologies, along with farming and mining activities. The whole environment needs zoning and developing accordingly. For example why has agriculture been permitted to go beyond the Goyder line and become dependent on pumped irrigation? How do we sustain food production dependent on fossil fuels, both for fuel and feedstock for agrochemicals? Choices of individuals in the market does not lead to collectively sensible behaviour. Rather the results are not in the best interests of the population at large nor are they ultimately of benefit to the individual.

We have land, coastline and coastal waters to both manage, develop and otherwise look after.

Note that I didn't include mining in the list. This is because the priorty is to identify resources and zone the environment. Then get infrastructure to access the regions for agriculture and mining. For example passenger trains travelling at 200 km/h to 300 km/h are important to getting people to the remote interior. Whilst civil aircraft may have cruise speeds from 300 km/h to 900 km/h, it is railways and roads which open up the country not isolated airports. Australia can basically be enveloped by a rectangle E/W: 4000 km by N/S: 3860 km (includes Tasmania). So the interior is around 2000 km from the coast line. Typical rural road speed 100 km/h, so the interior is around 20 hours away. By rail, at 200 km/h it is reduced to 10 hours, and air at 900 km/h down to 2.2 hours. However we are not typically travelling that far into the interior for farming and mining, a lot closer to 500 km to 1000 km from the coast. Whilst the remote central interior is 500 km to 1000 km radius of Alice Springs.

Put simply to make it more attractive for people to work in the remote mining and rural tends we have to make them less remote: by developing the infrastructure which connects them to the more populated coastal regions: and they have to be connected, so that goods can be delivered from these regions to the coastal regions. Once we have supportive infrastructure in place, secured our water supply and food production, then we can consider new mines and expanding existing.

We already have 1,687,893 people educated to AQF-5 and AQF-6, and 2,882,838 people educated to AQF-7. The primary problem is they don't have the necessary experience and expertise in the established technologies. With 1,675,632 people in engineering and related technologies, and 634,774 in architecture and building, and 222,831 people in Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies.

So it seems if anything there is a shortage of people in agriculture. Farmers have been advising there is a shortage and a lack of interest, with concerns where the next generation of farmers will come from. The problem with farming is that it is now mostly a one person activity, with lots of machinery. So assuming a 40 to 50 year career, the next generation have a long time to wait, for their parents to retire. They want jobs now, and the lifestyle the big cities promise. Hence the largest area being Management and Commerce with 2,149,808 persons.

Though statistics outside of education, indicate the largest areas of employment are: education, health care and retail. Mining and agricultural collectively account for less than 5% of the population. However these industries have flow on effects, as in mining needs infrastructure so there's a flow on construction boom. Whilst mining and agricultural materials need processing, so there's a potential increase in local manufacturing.

Any how, we may have a small population, and if they were busy doing the right work, there wouldn't be any shortages of people. The apparent shortfall of people in agriculture just means that there are fewer people looking after the potential tracts of land, plus the populated coastal cells more in need of architects and civil "engineers" than agriculture and environmental science: thus no shortfall.

If we were to increase the workforce by 1 million people we could assign at least two people to each of the planning cells. That is one environmental scientist, and either a agricultural "engineer", a mining "engineer", or a civil "engineer". That is we could employ one years production of engineers from India. But what we going to get them to do?

Got a block of land 5 km in diameter in the middle of nowhere and in less than one year of surveying to identify its of no consequence, and just needs a park ranger assigned responsibility.

Have a block of land in the middle of a cattle or sheep station. Is it a matter for environmental science or agricultural science? Once all the land is zoned, it then primarily becomes the responsibility for park rangers, and environmental scientists.

Our coastal waters are the responsibility of environmental scientists and civil/coastal "engineers". Our farm land the responsibility of environmental scientists, agricultural scientists along with agricultural "engineers". Our mining lands the responsibility of environmental scientists, and mining "engineers". We operate in the natural environment, we draw resources from the environment, we exhaust waste to the environment. We need to understand and monitor the environment. First and foremost we need an army of environmental technicians and scientists.

These people will either hinder development of land for: farming, mining, cities and industrial plant, or they will significantly boost the ability to implement. At present there is public opposition to increased mining, wind farms and various farming operations. It isn't decreased monitoring activity we need it is increased activity which is required.

For example we have protests which suggest we should stop mining coal. This is naive and suggests we only use coal as a fossil fuel. Coal however is an important source of carbon (not an abbreviation for carbon dioxide) based materials. Similarly oil and gas are also feedstock for material production including agrichemicals. So we cannot just stop the mining, we still need the raw materials. Amongst the raw materials are polymers used for insulation, required for energy efficient buildings. We have to better understand the industrial food chain, not simply halt production.

We need better monitoring of our rivers and the use of water for irrigation, and better stormwater management and water resource management. Much of the work required could be provided by Certificate IV (AQF-4) qualifications. Some monitoring could be provided by appropriate sensors and the industrial internet of things (IIoT): but such need installing under the supervision and operating by some one at least at AQF-4 level. The IIoT reduces the number of people required to run around taking remote measurements.

So remote cells can be monitored by remote controlled cameras atop tall towers, alternatively remote controlled flying drones can provide the means of monitoring. The land becomes occupied and under surveillance. One person could then potentially survey more than one cell in a day, or if not necessary to survey each day, they can survey several cells each year: and then cycle round again each year.

We have the population to occupy and survey the land. More to the point there are 798,400 Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander, so they can occupy the land with at least two people per cell.

Whilst there are 673,100 unemployed persons, who can occupy the land with at least one person to each cell, with two to some cells. Assuming these people want to work, then we have the required army to train to Certificate IV (AQF-4) and Associate Degree (AQF-6) level. So why haven't we? Partly because wasting national resources educating people, supposedly to AQF-8  over 4 years, and then scrapping half that education once they have found employment. Better to spend 2 years educating people to AQF-6 in the areas of practice we actually need skills. In 12 months we have planners, drafters and trade technicians. In 2 years we have the designers we need.

It should also be noted that whilst some of the AQF-4 qualifications take 4 years, these programmes are outside the classroom and on the job doing work. It isn't 4 years of academic study, it is mostly on the job training, developing proficiency in the work. So we can get the trades people for getting on with the work in short time. The people required to supervise takes slightly longer, and the people required to determine the work which needs doing, will take longer still, but should not take more than 2 years.

Now the cells are just for a planning exercise: to declare the land can be occupied and that at least one person is responsible for each block of land. I can however plan a square kilometre with a 500 x 500 m hub, to have more than 5000 single storey sole occupancy units. The maximum densities so far recorded around the world are 100,000 people for each square kilometre. These people are clearly not mining or farming as they are not occupying suitable land. And as they are already occupying buildings they don't need buildings.

Given 5000 single storey dwellings are suitable for couples with a baby, and extending the dwelling to two storey would make suitable for 2 adults and 2 children, and so increase population to 20,000. It seems relatively easy to increase the population to 100,000 by increasing the buildings to 10 storeys (5x2). But what are the 100,000 going to do with their time? What are they doing? Focused on education, health care and retail doesn't seem very productive. But if we do have such educational capability, then we definitely shouldn't and wouldn't have a shortage of suitably qualified persons.

Now whilst we can increase the population density of our cities who would want to live in such cities? More importantly from where do we get the water supply, we already have water rationing. So we have more work to do before we go increasing the population to get more workers to do the work.

The fundamental task is to maximise the benefit from the available but otherwise limited resources. The people we have in charge don't appear to have such ability.

So the numbers are available. We, just couldn't manage a booze up in a brewery.

Anyway the point is that a single agricultural or civil "engineer" should be able to develop a cell 5 km in diameter over a 40 year career. If we want it developed faster then we need more than one "engineer" involved with planning and design.

Just to note that is 5000 single storey or 10 storey dwellings designed once, and implemented 5000 times. Our building and construction industry in South Australia, oscillates between 5000 and 15,000 dwellings each year. So it would take less than one year to build a town. Does a mining town need more than 5,000 people or 100,000 people? Roxby Downs population 4500, Broken Hill population 17,814. Or take Leigh Creek (SA) population reduced from 2500 to 245. Mining towns are short lived. Some are unlikely to last for more than one generation: children are unlikely to follow in their parents footsteps and go work for the mining company.

Humans have legs, they are meant to be mobile. So not just about mobility across occupations it is also mobility across the planet. No one wants to buy a house in a place it will get abandoned, and no one else will want to buy. The houses cannot be permanently anchored to the earth's surface, the houses need to be transportable. So the road network as to permit transport of houses into the region and out off the region. So people are mostly going to want to live close to the developing cities, and the services they offer. Thus it is important to improve transportation infrastructure between the coastal cities and the interior rural and mining towns. If want to get people to live and work there, and do so for a reasonable duration, then access needs to improve. The towns need an adequate supply line bringing goods into town. Then they need personnel to provide all the appropriate services.

Also say it takes a team of about 5 people 90 days to build a house, then in 1 year they can build 365/90= 4 houses. So 5000/4 = 1250 years, or over a 50 year career, 50x4=200 houses. But want the houses built in 1 year, so need 5 people/team x 1250 teams=6,250 people. Thus needs more people than in the town. On the other hand in the detail the 5 people are not working continuously for 90 days. The plumber and electrician certainly aren't, they contribute at most about 2 days each. So they can each do 365/2=182.5 houses each year. So 5000/182.5=27.3, so would need about 28 plumbers and 28 electricians. For one years worth of work and then stop. If we shift the work into a factory we cut down on travel between sites, and the work can be reduced to a few hours. In short if we build a temporary factory at the destination, then the 5000 people are more than enough people to build their own houses in one year. The trip from factory to site also reduced. So trucks supply materials to the one factory rather than multiple sites.

Apparently in Australia there are approximately 105,000 homeless people. Thus 105,000/5000, so around 21 small towns, which if they are provided with resources and opportunity they can build themselves in one year. The 500m x 500m hub of the town I described is where retail stores and services are located. So the town would have own schools and hospital.

The most likely system implemented though is multistorey building, or infill housing, making use of existing stores, maintaining if not increasing unemployment.

There is a problem concerning getting the job done, and dragging the job out because don't have other work to go to. But there is plenty of work to do, obviously because they are declaring occupational shortages. More work just requires imagination, backed by resources and opportunities.

Most of the problems in this country and the world can be solved if we just got to work implementing the known solutions. Apparently 150 million world wide homeless, and 1.6 billion lacking adequate housing. So governments need to provide license to occupy and use land, and the resources and opportunity, and all can build their own homes. Furthermore the problem of shelter resolved in one year: technically. Socially and politically is another issue.

I mean what's the problem with implementing the millennium development goals in one year, of 7.53 billion only 1.6 billion people need shelter and there is enough for them to set about building their own homes. It's not even as if the development goals were about eliminating problems, they were half baked. Even the new sustainable development goals are half baked. Like end extreme global poverty by 2030. First redefine extreme poverty, so there isn't much of it, so it is then easy to eliminate over an excessively long period.

The primary problem is logistics, getting goods and services to and from the locations. Developing supply and distribution networks. How do we mobilise the world population and get them going to where the work is?

How many plumbers does Africa need? I have already indicated requirement to get houses built. But once the houses are built how many need to be retained? One rough statistic is in any given year around 5% of households will need some kind of maintenance service. So 5% of the 5000, so that is 250 each year. Most of the activity will take less than one day. Assume 50 productive weeks in one year, and 5 days per week, then have 250 productive days per year. So one plumber for every 5000 dwellings on condition that all demands do not occur on the same day. The more plumbers we have to cater for the multiple emergencies in the one day, and the less work any individual plumber does in a given year.

So with less guess work and more robust data sources than I have, it should be possible to map out a good estimate of how many plumbers the world needs and where they need be located, and do likewise for other occupations. There is no shortage of people. Though they may need training, such training should not take long.

Related Posts

[25/03/2019] : Original
[05/05/2019] : Minor Edits and Added Formatting