| 04 September 2023

The role of engineering in government

ACT’s Chief Engineer Adrian Piani FIEAust CPEng EngExec NER chats to us about his role and how the Territory is planning to grow the capability and capacity of its engineering workforce. 

Can you explain why it is important to have chief engineers working in the states and territories? 

Governments own and operate a wide range of assets for the community, including schools, hospitals, roads, parks and urban spaces and rail to name a few. The Chief Engineer role, and the engineers delivering the projects, ensure that decisions made for the community are informed by sound engineering principles, delivering robust and fit for purpose infrastructure. 

Engineers are a key profession when it comes to strategic planning for our cities. I think it is important, and valuable for governments, to have senior leaders in their executive team who have a technical/engineering background, who can influence and support good government decision making.  

I would also say that engineers are trained problem solvers (irrespective of the issue) so they can be valuable contributors to any process. Engineers, with their STEM background, also provide diversity of thought and experience that complements other decision makers such as public policy experts.  

How would you best describe your role and what you do? 

As the ACT Chief Engineer my objectives are to provide strategic advice on infrastructure projects, to advocate for the role of engineering and to ensure the ACT Government has the relevant engineering skills to deliver high quality engineering outcomes to make Canberra one of the world’s most liveable cities. I have two main priorities: 

  • to develop and implement a workforce plan for engineers in the ACT Government
  • to provide strategic support to government in infrastructure decision making. 

Broadly, the first priority is about supporting and growing the capability and capacity of the engineering workforce in the ACT. The workforce plan has identified 19 actions targeted at boosting the recruitment of engineers, optimising the existing ACT Government engineering workforce and strengthening the engineering profession in the territory.  

The second role provides a broad platform for the position of Chief Engineer to engage across government and the private sector to encourage best practice and innovation in engineering. My focus has been in two areas: the promotion of digital engineering, and implementation of environmental sustainability measures, including lower carbon infrastructure solutions. There are many excellent examples of innovation in the delivery of the ACT Government infrastructure portfolio. Many times, it is a matter of sharing best practice across the public service and promoting its adoption. 

What have been some of the achievements of the role and your personal highlights so far? 

Through the engineering workforce plan, we have successfully stood up an early career engineering secondment scheme between the ACT Government, and Canberra based engineering design and building/construction firms. In this scheme, early career engineers can rotate from their home workplace and join an engineering consulting firm as a contractor for a three-month period in each company. This provides an early career engineer with exposure to the full ‘infrastructure cycle’ from policy and planning within government, to engineering design within a consultancy, and construction delivery with a contractor.  

Feedback has been extremely positive from participants, and I am confident that the experience gained through the secondment program will set up these early career engineers for long-lasting career success. 

What do members need to know about engineering in the ACT? 

Engineer registration legislation has recently been passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly, and the ACT Government is now working towards its implementation. More information can be found on our website. As the Chief Engineer I am keen to support my engineering colleagues across Canberra to understand the requirements of the registration scheme and to act as a conduit to the regulator by providing feedback to support effective implementation. If Engineers Australia members have any questions, they can reach me at [email protected]