Science and Technology

Opportunities for our future auto engineers

Barry-CombenBarry Comben addresses the 2016 final year undergraduates.

At the recent presentation of the 2016 Undergraduate Student Research Projects at GM Holden in Melbourne, Excellerate Australia’s Director, Barry Comben OAM, reflected on his 55 years in the automotive industry and gave an insightful speech to the assembled students, mentors and industry figures.

The domestic automotive industry is rapidly changing as Toyota and Mitsubishi have ceased vehicle production, and Ford and Holden wind up their Australian manufacturing operations in the coming months.

Barry Comben spoke to the final year automotive engineering students, clearly anxious about their employment prospects, about where the career opportunities will continue to exist in this volatile sector.

Australian engineers, highly valued by international car makers, will still be in high demand overseas where as many as 50% have always plied their trade.

Advanced manufacturing and the broader transport industries, both locally and overseas, will maintain their high demand for skilled graduates and automotive engineers.

Barry said that new industries are emerging that offer opportunities for engineers. He pointed to the arrival of other technologies that will shape the transport sector into the future.

Smart mobility, the Internet of Things, sensors and transit data analytics, big data and digital informatics, self-aware traffic and logistics systems – the knowledge economy will redefine what’s possible for automotive engineers.

Opportunities will exist also in defence vehicles and electric cars, in special application vehicles and driverless automobiles.

Advanced manufacturing, food processing and construction industries will continue to seek out quality engineers.

‘Increasingly soft skills will be important,’ said Barry. ‘Technical skills will get your foot in the door but your people skills have ongoing value.’ Leadership, creative thinking, problem solving, project management, communication and emotional intelligence are just some of the qualities that help people make their way through organisations.

‘Decide what you’re passionate about and pursue those organisations that work in your areas of interest.

Research companies thoroughly, go door knocking and be determined and persistent,’ he said.

Graduates should seek out companies that are growing, progressive and investing in people; organisations that have a clear vision, sound corporate ethics and satisfied customers.

Importantly, companies must be profitable and financially sound.

Barry’s advice was warmly received. His gracious and generous demeanour left an impression on all in attendance.

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