Engineers Australia’s COVID-19 recovery plan includes the need for jobs, the maintenance of existing assets and adaptation to the new normal.
“COVID-19 has challenged all nations, all industries and every profession,” says Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans. “Encouragingly, it has been experts in all fields of endeavour that governments and communities have turned to for advice and solutions. Engineers have been part of the healthcare response and are also ready to bring their expertise to bear in support of Australia’s efforts to achieve widespread economic recovery.”
Here is Engineers Australia’s nine-point plan setting out criteria for success:
The need for jobs
1. Keep the focus on infrastructure projects
Construction jobs will be important in economic recovery. ‘Shovel-ready’ jobs should be a priority because construction is a labour-intensive sector that can ameliorate the severe drop in consumer demand caused by the large and economy-wide job losses. Identifying and implementing shovel-ready projects is critical to creating new employment opportunities.
2. Protect existing assets through maintenance
Maintenance work often requires short planning time-frames and utilises a broad mix of skilled and unskilled workers.
3. Protect people’s well-being
Enforced isolation and economic stress have had significant impact on the mental health and well-being of many. Governments of all levels should implement a range of measures such as debt relief, mental health support and community housing. Vibrant cultural services such as the arts, hospitality, entertainment and sport are vital to community structure and well-being. They, too, are some of the most severely affected by the health response to COVID-19, though their recovery is important for economic and community recovery.
4. Invest in local communities
Engineers Australia suggests government support payments (much like the JobKeeper scheme) to extend to local councils to safeguard employment and ensure the delivery of essential local services.
Leverage existing structures to safeguard recovery
5. Deliver good contract, procurement and payment practices
Engineers Australia calls on government and private sector project owners to ensure delays due to COVID-19 will not incur penalties, compensation or result in termination of contracts. To get money circulating in the economy more quickly, clients need to pay invoices on time. Laws that ensure security of payment must be supported, taking account of the need for flexibility and support if businesses are in demonstrable financial stress.
6. Build the next generation of professionals
Engineers Australia is supporting education providers and industry to ensure undergraduate engineering students continue to have exposure to workplace practices – an essential component of their education. Without support for students, graduations will be delayed and workforce supply lines disrupted.
Adapt to the new normal
7. Resilient Australia
Governments should support measures to improve the capability of Australian manufacturers in response to global supply chain disruptions. ‘Buy local’ policies in the short term and comprehensive industry policies with focuses on strategic engagement in international rules setting groups – such as international standards bodies, support for scaling up existing manufacturing industries and development of onshore capabilities for manufacturing and materials supply – in the long term, will invigorate the domestic economy and improve supply chain resilience.
8. The innovation nation
There is an opportunity for governments and the private sector to invest in research and development and emerging technologies, industries and careers, and to do so with a ‘start-up mindset’ that is less constrained by analysis paralysis. This is especially relevant for capitalising on the global transition to a low-carbon future.
9. Flexible working is working
Coronavirus has necessitated quick adaptation through a greater reliance on technology and a transition to a remote workforce. Flexible work practices have been a long-held barrier to higher levels of workforce participation for women, because they remain the predominant primary caregivers for children. Consideration should be taken of how technology and flexible working arrangements can be implemented as a mainstream practice and deliver greater workforce participation in the long term.