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Local engineers advocate for more interest from students in the field


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development – a young, globally recognised day which UNESCO’s General Conference proclaimed during its 40th session in November 2019 is celebrated on March 4 every year.

According to UNESCO, the day is necessary to raise awareness of the role of engineering in modern life, which is essential to mitigate the impact of climate change and advance sustainable development, especially in Africa and the small island developing states (SIDS).

Local engineering professionals Dwight Francis, a land surveyor, and Collin Brown from SKELEC spoke as products of the Caribbean education system nurturing their careers in engineering.

“The support in the education system; I think we have a strong fundamental education system. Dwight and myself are products of the Caribbean education system right up to the University of St. Augustine Campus, … so the system is quite capable of producing world-class engineers, and this is not a recent development. Both Dwight and myself have also studied and practice globally, and among our colleagues, we rank right there along with our other Caribbean colleagues on the global scale. So in that regard, I think the education system has had success in encouraging STEM and producing professional engineers who produce work of a high calibre.”

However, the two men said there is a need for more local students to take up an interest in the field.

“As well, we would like to promote it more. We want to have an organic passion and appreciation and encouragement of more students. The world we live in has changed such that the engineering profession and an engineering degree puts you in a good place for any profession you want to pursue. When I first met students who are pretty pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, and I said, what do you want to be when you grow up, they said a doctor, a lawyer, [or] a businessman, but their first degree is an engineering degree, which we will agree it’s not necessarily the easiest degree to achieve, yet still, we see that broadening and we want to bring that perspective to all communities that an engineering degree is not only for those who want to practice engineering as a profession, but it is a solid educational background for any profession.”

How do you combat students’ reluctance in math and physics-intensive careers, demystifying the stigma that math and physics are too complicated?

“It’s important that in the education system, we show the students how these subjects are important for them, not just in school but also in their daily lives. So in terms of mathematics, you know, learning by the textbook is one thing. However, how is mathematics important for you? Take, for instance, Pythagoras’ theorem and so forth. How do you calculate the distance from one place to the next? Even things like basic measurements. If you’re into architecture or even into other disciplines, you know some people shy away from measurements completely, but you have to look at measurements as a tool to assist you in your daily life.”

Francis also mentioned the importance the engineering field plays especially is resilience, especially in the context of Climate Change.

Brown also spoke of the need to be cognizant of resilience; building interest in engineering in schools is building the country’s overall resilience.

“Resilience is the capacity to operate under hazards and degrade gracefully. So while you want a system, infrastructure [and] society to be as robust and as reliable as possible in the face of hazards, whether they mean climatic, economic, pandemic as we recently had; depending on the hazard, there will be some impact. So resilience also has the aspect of, OK, we cannot operate at 100% because it’s a hurricane, but how can we build systems that allow as much of normal functioning of society [as possible].”

The 2023 theme of World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is “Engineering innovation for a more resilient world”.


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