The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed today the 46th European Conference of Young Engineers on the topic of Connecting Engineering Perspectives, which, due to the pandemic, is held virtually. The aim of the Conference, which is attended by more than 150 young engineers from the European countries, is to share their knowledge, as well as to develop personal and professional skills.
Distinguished President of the Engineering Institution of Macedonia,
Distinguished President of the European Young Engineers,
Honorable President of the European Federation of National Engineering Associations,
It is my pleasure to greet the European Young Engineers Conference. Macedonian citizens are traditionally known for their hospitality and we would have been really happy if we could welcome you in Ohrid. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are digital hosts of this important Conference which, for the first time, is held entirely online. Therefore I congratulate the organizers – the European Young Engineers, the Engineering Institution of Macedonia and the Club of Young Engineers for this endeavor.
This 2020 is a turning point for all of us on many levels. This year we mark a century of organized association of engineers and thus symbolically the beginning of a new stage in our engineering. Just a year ago, none of us could have imagined that we would face a pandemic that changed many of our plans and ideas overnight.
One might notice that in recent months we have all become accustomed to online conferencing and that this is nothing new. But, instead of taking technology for granted, we need to be reminded of one very important thing. And that thing is that our countries, societies and economies have continued to function in these extremely difficult conditions thanks to the scientists and IT engineers who, with their innovations, introduced us to the digital era. The infrastructure they have built over the past decades has stood the test of time and allowed us to function in conditions of physical distance and restricted movement.
Despite this obvious engineering feat, none of us wants the new reality, as it is commonly called, to become our permanent condition. In addition to health, the pandemic has created an economic, social and geopolitical crisis. There is no country in Europe and in the world that is not affected by a decline of the economic growth and an increase in the unemployment.
Faced with this great challenge, we need to think about what kind of post-COVID world, and more precisely, what kind of post-COVID Europe we want to live in. What is the role of engineering professions in rebuilding our economies and our lives?
There are several approaches to overcome the harmful effects of the pandemic, but almost all relevant international reports recommend that states continue to invest in research and development, innovation and new technologies at all costs, since they are part of the solution. Among the many uncertainties that the fourth industrial revolution brings, one thing is certain – the engineering profession will play an even more important role in building a sustainable future.
For example, the World Economic Forum identifies seven clusters of 97 professions of the future that are already booming. In the next few years, these new professions will create the need for millions of new jobs, which will reduce the unemployment caused by the pandemic. It is interesting that 16% of these professions are in the field of information technologies and artificial intelligence, 12% are in the field of engineering and cloud technologies, and 2% are in the field of green economy and renewable technologies. Although not engineering, the other four clusters or 70% of the new professions will necessarily rely on new technologies and digital skills. Confirmation of this is the McKinsey’s study of 2017 which shows that technology has always created more jobs than it has closed. All this says that the future of our countries and economies, and in general, the future of Europe, in the literal sense of the word lies in your hands, in the hands of young engineers. That is why you are undoubtedly the most important capital in every country.
With this in mind, it is our duty, as decision makers, to strengthen the partnership between the state, science, economy and civil society in order to provide quality and modern engineering education. Apart from awarding the annual recognition to the most successful young Macedonian engineers, I strive for digitization to be one of the priority areas for strategic development of the Republic of North Macedonia in the next decade.
Certainly, when thinking about the post-COVID future and the role of engineering, we should not believe that technology will solve all problems without changing the dominant production, consumer, and life habits in general. Profit should not be the only word in engineering solutions, because not everything that is short-term profitable is worthwhile in the long run. It is necessary to pay more attention to ethics in engineering, which will have human dignity as its ultimate value, and economic, technological and socially inclusive green development as its goal.
I wish you a successful Conference, fruitful discussions, and establishment of partnerships and friendships for a better future for all of us.