Report on Youth Convention Kuwait 2013

Report on Youth Convention Kuwait 2013

The first Youth Convention held by the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, Young Engineers/Future Leaders (YE/FL) standing committee took place in Kuwait City, Kuwait on February 10th-12th, 2013. There were three days of technical sessions covering a variety of topics relevant to young engineers, from how to start your own business, to humanitarian work in the developing world.

The convention held in Kuwait marked the first time that the YE/FL has held an independent function during WFEO sanctioned events. It was a large undertaking and a great success for this young committee. The three themes of the convention included: Youth, Engineering and Technology, and Global International Relations. This report reviews speaker highlights from the convention sessions, workshops, outcomes, and recommendations for the YE/FL committee as it continues to develop within the WFEO.

Opening Ceremony

The event was generously sponsored under the patronage of His Highness, the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Recently, the government of Kuwait has placed an emphasis on youth engineers supporting Kuwait’s development as they enter into their careers, and has even appointed a Minister of Youth to ensure that the voice of young people is recognized. Public Works Minister Abdul Aziz Al-Ibrahim, representative of the Amir, spoke at the opening ceremony where, in his opinion, this conference was an important building block in the youth movement, bringing together engineers from over 105 global engineering organizations who are patriots, devoted to their home countries, and their fellow citizens through engineering works to benefit humanity. Kuwait has such pride for their youth, especially young engineers, who have taken such a bold step in organizing the conference to make a better world. The young engineers of Kuwait maintain a focus on both domestic and international arenas by thinking locally and acting globally to improve quality of life worldwide.

Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Director of Natural Sciences at the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), spoke during the opening ceremony and pledged her support to the YE/FL and committed to strengthening youth relationships globally, using UNESCO’s network in whatever way may be beneficial to the YE/FL. Kuwait has made great strides to interest young people to pursue a career in education and engineering. In addition; Ms. Kalonji is committed to UNESCO and the YE/FL working hand-in-hand to spread the global movement of young engineers working together worldwide. Ms. Kalonji congratulated the Kuwaiti Young Engineers for their achievements. She stated “The Kuwait Society of Engineers is the most a well organized and effective group I’ve seen.”

WFEO President-elect, Mr. Marwan Abdelhamid, Kuwait Society of Engineers President, Eng Husam Al Kharafi, and Kuwait Foundation for Advancement of Sciences and Director of Scientific Culture, Dr. Hamed AlAjian were also among the distinguished speakers during the opening ceremony. Eng Marwan Abdelhamid cited the influence of WFEO President Eng Adel Al Kharafi. Since the election of Adel Al Kharafi, Kuwait has made a great advancement in garnering the interest of young engineers in the last 3 years. The president-elect will continue to take concrete steps in the same direction to highlight the role of young engineers to achieve collective and sustainable partnerships within the WFEO. Kuwait Society of Engineers President, Eng Husam Al Kharafi, has maintained a close relationship with the Society since its inception, observing the professional activities on a regional and international scale, where the events and conferences brought together engineers collaborating and volunteering their time to create a better world for their fellow citizens. The whole world is talking about the role of youth engineers in building their communities, and the goal of this conference is to devote our young engineers to this concept, and make it a reality. We must broaden the base of participation in their respective home countries through their work, and through volunteering in various organizations around the world.

The opening ceremony keynote speaker was the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, Dr. Sheikh Muhammed Al-Sabah, who identified 3 major challenges young engineers will have to address throughout their careers, most notably environmental degradation, the information revolution, and the population explosion during the next thirty years, resulting in various environmental challenges. Environmental engineers must confront these obstacles and look for new solutions with new environmentally friendly resources, especially with respect to the looming nuclear threat from Iran. Engineers must also bear in mind the increasing instance of information warfare technology and cyber crime as sensitive data is breached more and more frequently. The population imbalance facing young engineers today is significant. The population continues to decline in the northern hemisphere while the population in the southern hemisphere is growing exponentially. It is important to find a balance between theses two variables to create a better future for everyone.

Technical Sessions, Day One

The technical sessions began with Andrew Lamb, Director of Engineers Without Borders UK. Although the developing world faces many problems, young engineers, in particular, are motivated to help defy the poverty phenomena and the many variables it poses as a result. In a world where we look to achieve equality among people, 90% of engineers need to look beyond the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population, which they currently serve. There are fewer than 30,000 engineers per million people in Africa who are facing the daily crisis of lack of water and basic infrastructure, while the developed world’s challenges include communication and technology, to put the crisis in perspective. The roles and responsibilities of engineers today needs to be redefined so that all of mankind is served.

Following Andrew Lamb’s call to action, the Ministry of Youth, Dr. Fawaz Alhchinan, noted that this conference came at a time when everyone is looking forward to the role of young people, evident by the newly established, Ministry of Youth, which serves as a voice for the youth. Increasingly, we recognize that there is a lack of self-motivation in youth in Kuwait, which was one of the reasons for the establishment of this ministry to support and encourage their creativity so they view the world as an open door full of possibilities.

CEO of Al Maktoum Foundation, Mr. Sultan Lootah, recognized the need to focus on training teachers to use technology. He has trained nearly two thousand teachers to develop their ability to keep pace with global developments, improve the quality of life in the Arab world through the development of competency, and in all areas including those that are culturally specific. The state of knowledge in the Arab world is that there remains a large margin of technological illiteracy among young people in general. Awareness around this situation needs to be increased so that this margin can be reduced. The work he is doing with the Al Maktoum Foundation is reducing this margin so that the Arab world can be competitive among the rapidly industrializing nations of China and India.

The first day ended with the discussion of the breakthrough with the Kuwait National Youth Project which was born when the team reviewed the idea of the project, which is aimed at the 17-30 years age group, with a vision and mission of turning hobbies into professions. The state of Kuwait is financially stable so the potential of financial abundance that can be exploited for the benefit and development of young people is bountiful. Project “Together,” as it has been termed, aims to consolidate the Kuwaiti identity by creating youth experiences through the development of projects in young hands and minds to promote personal investment in the development of solutions to address the world’s problems. One hundred young participants will be chosen and subjected to high quality training according to world standards, provided by trained global professionals, designed to hone the skills of young people and their abilities.

Technical Sessions, Day Two

Day two of the sessions began with Mr. Michael Michaud, Managing director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, who’s reviewed the latest scientific achievements in the field of technology industries, which is capable of solving many problems, including the evolution of social media, the web and its impact on the speed of communication, and easy access to available information. He pointed out the increasing growth in the amount of available information and building relationships over the Internet. As Andrew Lamb noted in the previous day’s session, there is a great inequity in the proportion of technology used worldwide, meaning 90% of the world’s technology is used by only 10% of the people, underscoring the importance of using industry in technological problem solving. To illustrate a means of achieving broader access to technology, he reviewed some examples that have improved the quality of life for thousands with equipment that costs as little as $20. He added, as engineers, it is our responsibility to find ways and means of technological relief for humans and solving problems by means of information already available on the Internet. He pointed out that the mechanical engineering specialty may help solve many of these problems by finding ways to solve environmental and community based issues and stressing the importance of access to some specialized sites which help in obtaining pertinent information. He concluded his presentation by reviewing the four steps necessary to build networks, which include capacity development, innovation, creativity, and the development of infrastructure, pointing out that the exponential increase in numbers of people around the world is a big challenge in front of mechanical engineers specifically.

Kyle Twitchell, Younger Member Program Director at the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave a dynamic speech regarding his work with rooftop farms. This new and innovative idea is relevant to many of the issues engineers confront with respect to urban design, reduction of permeable area and resulting drainage issues, and ultimately climate change. He outlined the role played by engineers to improve the environment through agricultural technology, emphasizing that engineering can work above the soil on high surfaces, such as “green roofs. He noted that the U.S. government encouraged citizens to grow gardens at home, especially after the first world war, pointing out that home gardens turned into a general phenomenon in most regions of the United States. Currently, much of the American population lives in rural areas and works in agriculture, especially since there is little to no ability to grow food within the city. Of special note was the effect of Hurricane Sandy, which made food scarce in urban areas and required finding alternative ways to provide food during crises. This generated the idea of green roofs by exploiting concrete and the upper surfaces of buildings, with the conversion of unoccupied or otherwise wasted spaces, using modern engineering and a little innovation.

The general supervisor of the Student Chapter of the Kuwait Society of Petroleum Engineers, Dr. Abdullah Al Sayeed, spoke about the evolution of civilizations thanks to engineering works. He cited that engineers boast a thriving body of knowledge that made possible landmarks such as the hanging gardens of Babylon, the Greek temples, Arab palaces, and the Great Wall of China. Quality of life has improved dramatically because of advances in the fields of engineering and technology fueled by the invention of electricity and a recent communications revolution. The challenges facing some countries may differ from the challenges that face those in Kuwait, including the reluctance of young students to study engineering. However, this does not apply to Kuwait as there is a queue of students ready to join the faculties of engineering. In Kuwait, a career in engineering provides high salaries, social status, increased standard of living, and the opportunity to raise the profile of Kuwait regionally and globally. However, other motivations include independence, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance which fuel the student to persist in spite of the difficulty of engineering studies. To strengthen the relationship between industry and the university, faculty members encourage students to participate in projects and research, thereby exposing them to advanced technologies and real-world applications. A significant challenge in Kuwait is working under supervisory functions, rather than executive, which is a mistake because it can kill talent, eliminate ambition, reduce morale, and this is not what we want in our engineers as future leaders, which, in turn, affects the development of Kuwait both regionally and globally. Dr. Al Sayeed is working on a solution to overcome these problems, which confronts engineers in Kuwait, and is of interest to them and their work in their respective fields, along with the establishment of partnerships between the private sector and the government, to establish self-sufficiency and independence.

The secretary general of the European Federation of National Engineering Associations (FEANI), Eng Dirk Bochar, pointed to a shortage in professional engineering cadres around the world, citing that this deficit requires encouraging parents and educators to encourage their children to join the engineering profession. The world is facing many challenges currently, and there is an urgent need for engineers who are able to work in all parts of the world, capable of solving global problems, who have the flexibility and mindset capable of dealing with all types of people for the benefit of humanity. Any competitive industry in the global market today is looking for the professional competencies of top-notch engineers, having the skills necessary to engineer the world to open new horizons for the future, which lead to the need for a global database of specialist engineers worldwide. In Europe, there has been the introduction of the Engineering Card, which resembles a personal identity, but contains specialist information about the holder, in accordance with international standards. There are currently 32 European countries which benefit from the card and most recently a protocol was signed with 8 other countries. The final goal is to create an engineering expertise database worldwide so that engineers with standardized credentials can move easily applying their skills globally.

The Six Distinct Personality Traits of an Engineer was presented by Dr. Mousa Almazidi, who is an accomplished author and winner of 7 degrees in behavioral skills training, including four in America, and two in the UK, and one at the American University in Cairo. He was appointed in to the Faculty of Engineering in 1981 at the American University in Cairo, which during his tenure graduated more than 3,000 engineers. He confirms that his books are the first in the industry to address the issues of self-confidence, self-motivation, and self-worth, while taking a new approach to management. Through his work, he has identified six distinctive features of an engineer. An engineer is always optimistic and kind, located on the positive side in any project, has clarity of goals and sees the end goal rather than the obstacles is logical, and has the ability to influence others. He asks, “are these the qualities you love in engineering?” An engineer should always smile and be welcoming to break down the misunderstandings and stereotypes about engineers. Small efforts like this cannot be underestimated.

Eng Mei Ling Fam, Singapore Delegate, presented the upcoming World Engineering Summit which will be held in September 2013, in Singapore, on the topic of Innovative and Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change. Each year the WFEO holds a conference relating to a theme relevant to the host-country. Specific issues addressed will include challenges faced by engineers in Asian countries, include funding and motivation by the World Bank in humanitarian operations engineering, the role of the engineer in climate change, and the challenges this small nation faces with respect to food and water security, natural disaster mitigation and management, corporate social responsibility on climate change, sustainable development, and the actions being taken to mitigate the human effect on the environment. The program sheds light on the latest innovations in engineering technology and also includes technical site visits to innovative projects implemented in Singapore.

Technical Sessions, Day Three

The sessions on day three of the conference revolved around youth experience, where several young engineers shared their professional and personal experiences in the engineering industry post-graduation. President of the Association of Industrial Engineers in Kuwait, Engineer Salem Al Dosari, reviewed his experience and failures that ultimately led to his personal success. Post-graduation, he was chosen to join the Faculty of Engineering, which was unfortunate, because it bears no resemblance to actual engineering, preferring academic theories and lacking real-world application. This prompted Eng Al Dosar to look elsewhere which led him to join engineering management. This job also haunted him with complex administrative paperwork. To counterbalance his discontentedness with his professional experiences, he made a commitment to devote himself to the positive aspects of a situation at the exclusion of the negative aspects. He became a fish swimming against the tide to learn the lesson of a “half cup full.” Dosari realized that people tend to see the negative side of a situation, which led him to insist on his personal position of positivity. This attitude led him to volunteer with the Kuwait Society of Engineers, and build relationships, many of which taught him interpersonal skills. He encourages others to adopt the same mentality so they can build upon their skills and knowledge as well.

Eng Muhammad Al Surayea spoke about the idea he turned into a company he founded, Mohammed dot com, which provides online courses. He built an integrated system that supplies several specialized courses that help develop and refine soft skills for young professionals. He also reviewed the components of the site, how to use it, and take advantage of the services offered by stressing the importance of continuing education to keep up with developments in the world around us, pointing out that the site also provides many other features. He also stressed the importance of building an integrated system in the Arab world, to achieve permanence in the technological realm, pointing out that we have to think in an orderly fashion and that the engineers, specifically, play a larger role in providing solutions to many of the problems faced by our societies.

Following the youth experiences, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Dr. Hayat Sindi shared her personal success story of overcoming the cultural expectations of a young woman in Saudi Arabia. In 2009, Dr. Sindhi was chosen as one of 15 “pop tech” award recipients. Pop tech brings together social innovators to affect change in the real world through unconventional means. Her story began when she made the decision to leave Saudi Arabia and go to London to study science, where she was rejected. She returned to Saudi Arabia, determined to get higher scores to qualify for University in London to realize her dream of being a scientist. She had to learn English in order to be able to follow lectures, and after many people telling her to give up, she persisted and graduated. After graduation, Dr. Sindhi faced new challenges, confronting the juxtaposition of her religion and science. After overcoming cultural norms, Dr. Sindhi succeeded and became a distinguished member of her field, receiving job offers from the most prestigious universities, and was even elected to the parliament of Saudi Arabia. As a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, she encourages women to study science. She pointed to the statistic that although women outnumber men in the field of science, there have been only 16 women to win the Nobel Prize (3%) compared to men. This statistic must encourage women to pursue careers in science, innovate, and achieve their own personal success story.

Vivas Kumar, student representative board member of Engineers Without Borders USA, spoke about Grassroots International Relations and Economic development with respect to his experiences in Engineers Without Borders. He pointed out that the world is facing many challenges, notably the challenges of energy and health care, as well as sanitation, noting that we must develop the technology to meet these challenges. Through EWB-USA, there are more than 300 existing projects in 40 countries around the world, mostly concentrated on the development of technology of water and sanitation, pointing out that not all are realized due to international relations. The Engineers Without Borders USA system has become very large, working in collaboration with various non-governmental organizations and creating a quantum leap in international relations. The conversion of many of these basic services from governments to NGOs and non-profits help grow communities much faster than the pace at which government has progressed them currently. Through international cooperation to provide solutions to many of the problems identified, developing countries can transition from “developing” to “global” by strengthening their community and infrastructure.

Concluding the convention’s technical sessions was the Founder of South African Women Engineering, Naadiya Moosajee who shared her personal success story. She founded and runs a non-profit that promotes engineering through advocacy, advancement of women in engineering, and empowerment and education of rural and urban youth. Her list of accolades is long, including being included in the 2009 CEO Magazines Most Influential Women of The Year in the category of Engineering. She has a keenness to implement permanent technology to strengthen and enhance education and health projects, as well as energy and water supply. Her organization in South Africa tracks factors that could affect the engineering sector in South Africa, which includes monitoring the total number of women in engineering. While the proportion of women engineers in Kuwait is 60%, in South Africa the proportion is much lower. To combat this, she started an awareness campaign to get girls interested in science and engineering by enhancing creativity and invention. Her group also performed a survey of technical studies and technology, which provides support to engineers in South Africa’s private sector, in order to close the gap between the public and private sector, and help young engineers find jobs in private industry.

Sidebar Meetings

No conference would be complete without impromptu break-out meetings. In addition to growing one’s personal network, these collaborative meetings also allow for knowledge sharing. A couple of meetings to highlight include Engineers Without Borders and future conference programming for Young Engineers. Over lunch, Vivas Kumar representing EWB-USA, together with the EWB UK director, Andrew Lamb, were able to provide their insights for the Kuwait Society of Engineers, as they are in the early stages of developing an EWB chapter themselves. Having EWB representatives from three continents compare best practices and appropriate technology in developing countries over lunch was the embodiment of what YE/FL stands for. In addition, Eng Kate Johnson, YE/FL Vice-Chair, was able to meet with Singapore Delegate Eng Mei Ling Fam to discuss programming for the upcoming WES 2013 this September in Singapore. Many logistical details have already been decided, leaving the team to focus on speakers and topics relevant to Young Engineers based on feedback gathered during the convention. Kate was also able to meet with Nigerian Delegate, Eng Christopher Chunkawunta, who will be coordinating all youth events and activities in Abudja in 2014. While many details for the conference have yet to be finalized, it is never too early to start brainstorming for future events!

Cultural Experiences

On the second day of the conference, the attendees had the opportunity to visit the Sailor’s Market where they enjoyed a traditional Kuwaiti dinner while listening to live music from an Arabic band. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to explore the stores that sold unique traditional goods, and were able to explore a part of the city that hearkens back to the city’s roots as well as mingle and get to know each other.

On the third day of the conference, the attendees enjoyed visiting the Green Camp located about an hour away from Kuwait City. Kuwaitis are encouraged to camp in the desert to get in touch with their cultural roots. While in the desert, most Kuwaitis typically are running generators, driving around on their ATVs, and dumping wastewater and trash all over. In response to this waste, the Kuwait Society of Engineers found a solution by establishing a camp site that generates all of its energy through solar power. There are a variety of solar energy devices, such as solar thermal, as well as several water-saving techniques in addition to demonstration of recycling grey water by watering plants. The Camp was built to showcase sustainable practices in the middle of the Arabian Desert, and attendees enjoyed viewing exhibits about innovative implementations for solar power and water sequestration in a desert setting. Attendees also relaxed by playing sports such as volleyball and soccer, and other activities such as camel riding.

Conclusion

The various speakers came from a plethora of backgrounds, but all seemed to echo some constant themes. As engineers, we have a responsibility to promote and sustain our profession; else, we will face a critical shortage of engineers in just one generation. We need to encourage more youth to pursue engineering careers. Engineers should focus on making simple, sustainable technology to serve the world’s population, not just the 10% with the means to pay. While invention of new technology is paramount to the advancement of society, equally important is the innovation to find new applications using existing technology, and finally, education of engineers in all levels of their careers to maintain relevancy. From these themes, goals emerged for the YE/FL committee to pursue long-term.

While we recognize that an engineering degree provides one with the tools necessary to problem solve and think critically, it does not prepare the young engineer for developing client relationships, networking, or any of the other myriad of nuances of the engineering profession. In the closing ceremony, the Declaration, given by YE/FL Vice-Chair, Kate Johnson included four recommendations for YE/FL to undertake as the committee evolves. They are as follows: To provide more training and workshops to develop young engineers as leaders, not just in their core business, but in the engineering profession as a whole, by providing preparation prior to entering the industry as professionals, encourage and support education curriculums to provide soft skills, thereby yielding young engineering graduates with excellent presentation, networking, technical writing and managerial skills to be effective as employed professionals, raise the bar of the engineering profession by encouraging employers to require employee involvement in professional societies, obtain and maintain professional registration or licensure, and reward merit, not tenure, to link competency to strategy, and support global exchange within companies and universities to facilitate knowledge sharing across the globe. As a committee, we have a great responsibility to fulfill these tenets. It will require many helping hands to achieve these goals, but we are confident that motivated young engineers will help us make a difference in advancing the engineering profession, and ultimately, improving the quality of life for humanity. The Young Engineers/Future Leaders Committee creates value for young engineers by filling in these gaps in education. The result of which is a young engineer who can enter the industry as an effective professional, linking their technical competencies to business strategies. The investment in the development of young engineers benefits employers through the trickle-down effect, which eventually translates to the bottom line.

Looking forward, the committee’s goal is to continue to develop the budding relationship with UNESCO, provide quality programming and enhance professional development education for young engineers, building on experiences thus far, and learning from previous shortcomings. In an effort to continue knowledge sharing outside of conference events, YE/FL has recently launched a blog. We aim to have guest bloggers every month so our network can get to know each other as well as discuss topics relevant to young engineers throughout the year. Pictures from the recent convention in Kuwait can be viewed on our blog. Please visit and follow us!

 

Kate Johnson
US Delegate, YE/FL Vice-Chair




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