ITA AITES Civil engineers in the tunnelling industry: The booming interest of Generation Y

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Between 2009 and 2013, the tunnelling and drilling equipment industry witnessed a buoyant rhythm, reaching a 4.9 % annual growth rate. Such dynamic was still valid in 2014, and is likely to go up through to 2018, notably thanks to the skyrocketing Asian demand (up to 49 % of market shares in 2014). Regarding the tunnelling industry, the market shares of Europe (28 %), North America (16.5 %), Latin America (6 %) and the Middle East (4 %) indicate strong needs for tunnels and underground spaces. A reality that could be justified by the major social and urban changes (urban growth, rising demography, climate change…) at work in these regions. To address such challenges, the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association ITA-AITES has multiplied initiatives and events to attract young high profiles in the tunnelling sector. Among them, the creation of the ITACET (Committee on Education and Training), as well as the endorsement of 5 international specialised masters. So far, thousands of students and young engineers have demonstrated a strong interest in the tunnelling industry, a genuine success for ITA, and a prospect of hope for contracting authorities and tunnelling companies.

 

Underground city-planning, underground public buildings, underground spaces for storage, industrial or military facilities… the occasion for States to mobilize tunnelling engineers are numerous. Besides, young nation members that have recently joined the ITA witness growing needs of underground devices and energy supply. Therefore, ITA AITES has developed a rich panel of education and training offers. In that matter, the Association is also encouraging the cooperation between the ITACET and the ITA Young Members.

 

Cutting into the earth’s stratum: emerging countries and the tunnel rush

 

In Asia, underground infrastructures are stated to represent almost 60 % of global infrastructures spendings by 2025, essentially due to strong needs in transportation, utilities, and commercial purposes, in a context of rapid urbanisation. In Latin America, the mining exploitation in the underground is at the core of the States’ economy. In Peru for example, the mining industry occupies 20 % of the national territory. In 2014, in order to ensure energy self-sufficiency and to face a considerable car-traffic growth, the country allocated $13,800 million to public tenders linked to tunnelling constructions.

 

Sergio Ocampo, 29 years old, is a young civil engineer specialised in tunnels in Mexico. He testifies: “All emerging countries like ours, in Latin America, are seeking better tunnel engineers for the development of underground spaces. They are at the midst of quite serious challenges – crowded cities, traffic jam, incredible expansion of mining exploitations -, and they need specific profiles to address it”.

 

Graduated from the Technological Institute of Monterrey, Sergio Ocampo began his career in a global construction company, named ICA – Ingenieros Civiles Asociados. After two years, the company offered him to obtain a specialization in tunnelling and underground space constructions, through a French postgraduate master degree co-delivered by the French school of Engineering INSA-Lyon and the National College of State Public Works (ENTPE). “My company discovered this education programme thanks to some French engineers working within the company, Sergio pursued. The Master was endorsed by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, which further convinced me to apply for candidacy”.

 

ITA, a cornerstone in the structuration of a global training offer in tunnel engineering

 

The creation of the ITACET Committee to promote a specialized education

In 2009, anxious to bring the tunnelling industry and universities closer, the ITA AITES launched the creation of its second special committee: the Committee on Education & Training (ITACET) which was to organize and promote a high level education policy among its State members. The move was made. The same year, the French Tunnelling and Underground Space Association created its own Education Committee, headed by Richard Kastner, a Professor in geotechnical engineering. “Once the ITACET was created at the international scale, the AFTES set the goal to develop its contacts with universities and specialized schools. Every year, we counted 2 or 3 new collaborations. We also decided to invite, for free, the whole community of civil engineering students to our three-year congress, where 350 companies were present. The success was immediate: 400 students participated”.

 

5 ITA-endorsed specialized masters, 60 to 80 young engineers graduated per session

Detecting a nascent demand of specialization in tunnelling and underground space engineering, 6 member states of the ITA launched their own Master degree: Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. 5 of them are currently ongoing. Endorsed by the Association, they offer to students and generalist civil engineers high level innovative programmes, structured with the tight contribution of industry, constructors, companies and engineering firms. “ITA’s endorsement precisely guarantees the intervention of internationally-known experts and professionals in the courses, ITACET Vice-President Michel Deffayet declared. Beyond our initial detailed review, we also annually follow-up the conformity of the programmes”. Furthermore, every Master degree is to be accredited by the national authority in charge of validating educational trainings.

 

For Richard Kastner, also co-Director of the French specialized master degree in “Tunnels and Underground Structures from design to operation”, “this education programme is very selective and considerably demanding. We select 12 students, out of more than 50 applicants. We strongly value the international dimension of their profiles. International students represent 50 % of the promotions”.

 

“I could not concur more”, Daniele Peila, Head of the Italian Mechanic Tunnelling Master, added. “In the framework of our courses, we intend to multiply the focuses of a same project, through the intervention of international experts. The objective is to offer students a large frame of points of view”. A master than also knows a great success, with 15 students per edition, coming from all over the world: Greece, Korea, China, Colombia, Austria, Nigeria, India…

 

ZOOM ON … THE FRENCH & THE ITALIAN POSTGRADUATE MASTER DEGREES

  • Programmes recognised by the educational authorities in France and Italy.
  • A high level of admissions: requirement of a master / MsC degree in Civil Engineering or Geotechnical engineering.
  • A five to six-month programme, completed by a six-month internship (French master) / a three-month internship (Italian master) and a thesis work.
  • 90 % of the teaching staff are tunnelling experts coming from universities, design and construction companies; consultancy offices, and supplier organisms.
  • 6 to 9 highly specialized courses: geotechnical engineering, infrastructure project management, building technics of tunnels and underground spaces’ structures, conception and justification of choices, dimensions and costs, security equipment in the operation phase, management of infrastructure asset.
  • More than 400 hours dedicated to the management of a real project, with a direct access to field data.
  • Around 170 hours of mentoring.
  • Up to 85 % of the students are hired before being graduated, 98 to 100 % 6 months after graduation.

 

The young tunnelling engineers: an emerging international community

 

Owing to the increasing demand of member states, the ITACET Foundation and the ITACET Committee have also launched technical trainings all the year round (8 to 10 per year). Since 2009, the ITACET’s dynamic training policy (42 sessions) has attracted more than 4,700 participants, with a hundred attendees in average per session.

 

Such popularity aroused the interest of the recently created ITA Young Members’ Committee (ITAYM), in charge of raising the awareness of the tunnelling industry to new generations. “One of our core mission is to provide a technical networking platform for young professionals and students within the ITA”, Vice-chair Petr Salak explained. “In that matter, we feel a growing interest of young people for the industry. Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Norway, South Korea, the UK, the USA and Brazil – have already launched their national Young Members’ group. Six other countries are about to imitate them: Belarus, Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and South Africa”. For these reasons, “the ITA Young Members will start cooperation with the ITACET and will play an active part in the development of training courses”, Petr Salak concluded. In this aim, Berenice Moreau, a member of the ITAYM, was recently chosen to establish relations with the ITACET Committee, in order to work on new common training courses prior to the WTC 2016 in San Francisco.

 

The word of Soren Degn Eskesen, President of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association: “A few months after the Paris Conference for Climate (COP21), there is something very comforting and reassuring to notice that our Youth is keen on getting involved in the construction of state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly tunnels and underground spaces. I have already said how much the engagement of the international community and of public authorities in the anticipation of urban effects caused by climate change is fundamental. Yet, nothing is possible without the existence of a high-level and creative community of young engineers who will initiate change through disruptive technical innovations. In that matter, ITA considers education and training as the core of its priorities. We are delighted to observe that our efforts are paying off”.

 

About the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association Association:

 

The International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) is a non -profit and non-governmental international organization, which aims at promoting the use of underground space as a solution to sustainable development. Founded in 1974 and operating out of Lausanne, Switzerland, ITA currently associates 73 Member Nations, 300 affiliated members, 17 Prime Sponsors and 60 supporters.

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