A speech to EIT students embarking on their studies: February 2018
Good morning Ladies and Gentleman
As I stand in front of you I am sure you are contemplating the years stretching ahead with a mixture of excitement and apprehension; wondering what they will bring you. To come to a strange country and to commit to this challenge is brave, well done! We would like to welcome you warmly to our college.
There are four things I would like to talk about today:
Our Proud History
We were founded in 1992 so have a proud history extending over 27 years. During that time we have trained over half a million engineering professionals on our short courses and currently, on our online engineering diploma and degree programs, we have around 1500 students based in over 140 countries. We also have corporate clients who use our training and education, smaller firms and blue chip companies such as BP, NASA, Rolls Royce, the US Army, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
Our focus and passion is engineering and technology; we love nothing more than demonstrated excellence in these areas. But we realise too that it is essential to communicate well and to develop an understanding and admiration for the Arts and Philosophy. I believe a well-rounded, positive individual who is open to learning will get the most out of Life.
The Ethos of the Engineering Institute of Technology
EIT is unique and markedly different to other institutions and this is why:
You may wonder if you have made a good decision – is a college qualification worthwhile?
I believe the answer is a resounding ‘YES’ (But then, as Dean of your college, with a few degrees behind my name, I would have to say that wouldn’t I?)
Despite this, your decision is an intelligent one; it will most certainly hold you in very good stead. At college you have the opportunity to learn, to acquire new knowledge and skills. This is a privilege, but it is also designed to help prepare you for your career, or to boost it. (Studies clearly indicate that college graduates earn more than those who choose not to attend.)
You will also make new friends – both here and out there in Perth and beyond. This is important for you personally (and potentially for future networking).
I would urge you to do your very best while you are here. Stretch yourselves, work hard and use all your experiences, socially and academically, to help you fulfil your potential and your dreams.
Australia is a marvellous country populated by a wonderful mix of cosmopolitan people. Most of us are immigrants, originally from another part of the world. Australians love to give everyone a ‘fair go’; they love sport and the ‘larrikin’ spirit. It is also a highly regulated country – as you would have discovered already through your visa process. Thanks to this careful regulation and a strong social awareness you will notice that crime is low here – it still happens, but it is low. It is a very positive caring environment in which to live. You may, however, find the socialist ideals difficult to adjust to. Or you may love them. Naturally, as is the case in every society, there are those who hate the systems and structures; all we can do is to remain positive in the face of their anger.
We live in a global village. If you owned the corner fish and chip shop, for example, the price of potatoes in another country could force your costs up (or indeed allow you to lower them). There are many factors which impact us as global citizens: climate change, sustainability, the cost of energy and pollution. Your engineering career should be thought of in exactly the same way. You will be capable of working anywhere in the world; in fact the company you ultimately work for will, more than likely, have international partners in other countries.
Recently I was sharply corrected by a good engineering colleague of mine when I used the term STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). He suggested an improved acronym: STEEM – to include entrepreneurship. And he is absolutely right.
The evidence of a rapidly changing jobs market is clear. A ‘job for life’ is no longer an option and increasingly automation is hollowing out traditional employment in many industrial facilities. Technologies that once were buzzwords are now being successfully implemented and providing huge opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs: machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, cloud computing and virtual reality.
These changes make it critical that we all become entrepreneurs; we need to learn to think as entrepreneurs, to focus on creativity and business outcomes. And in this we also need to tolerate failure and learn from it. It doesn’t mean that you should set up a business, but that you should always think of yourself as an entrepreneur — even when working within a large company.
Learning is Life-Long
Rapidly changing technologies mean that acquired information loses its relevance and applicability more quickly than ever before. This can be daunting and slightly disheartening, but it needn’t be. Be open to learning. Formal education is one thing, but informal learning is often more powerful. You may recall in times gone past the very powerful learning models with the master craftswoman training her apprentice to be an outstanding professional. Similarly, you will find expertise available informally which you can draw on and make your own. Traditional college and vocational education will be unrecognisable in the next decade with the incredible opportunities presented by the internet and training companies arriving on the scene.
Take Responsibility for your Learning
Up until this point most of you would have had a largely structured education. At college you will find it less so. Yes, we have the clear learning objectives for each unit, but we want you to go well beyond these goals, we want you to reach for the stars. You will be expected to become self-reliant and independent in your thinking and learning. Develop good study habits, work hard and be disciplined in your approach to your education. Learning without rigour and merely hoping for the best is a sure fire recipe for failure. Talk to us if you find topics difficult; don’t wait until it is too late. We are determined that you succeed. You are extraordinarily important to us.
Colleges and Universities encourage critical thinking and debate because education is not about indoctrination. I have encouraged you to be structured in your approach to your studies, but be cautious; don’t develop a fixed mind set. It is vital that you question everything that you are taught. We will undoubtedly stretch you in your thinking and work here. Bear in mind that some of the most successful technologists in the world dropped out of their studies – luminaries like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and our mentor, until his recent death, Dick Morley – who founded a trillion dollar automation business.
You Never Arrive
Please always remember that it is the journey that is important, not some envisioned destination. Enjoy each day; draw maximum value from every one of them and contribute your absolute best. Try and support your fellow travellers on the journey – whilst we are looking for individual effort – you will personally gain enormously by helping others. We look forward to accompanying you on your journey.
All the best for a barnstorming 2018. Focus on hard objectives now to ensure your time here exceeds all your expectations. Above all, stay healthy and stay personally connected.
On behalf of us all I wish you the heartiest of welcomes to the Engineering Institute of Technology.
Steve Mackay PhD
Dean of Engineering