Optimism Abounds

13 August 2015

At the rapid excavation and Tunnelling Conference (RETC) in New Orleans this June, there was a discernable attitude shift of the industry from 2014 to 2015. At the North America Tunneling (NAT) event in Los Angeles—where a news crew local to Seattle roamed the exhibit hall, looking for answers about the stalled TBM on the Alaskan Way viaduct project—the tone of most conversations expressed hesitation, concern and frustration.

Though it's summer 2015 and there isn't yet a rescheduled timeline for tunnelling to start on the aforementioned mega project, it did not seem to weigh as heavily on the industry's conscious this year. People talked about the return of WTC to North America in 2016 and about new young member groups gaining momentum worldwide, among the usual industry gossip and the occasional Bourbon Street tale.

Regardless of the topic du jour, industry gatherings are imperative for the US and Canada. With such large geographic areas, it can be especially challenging to create a sense of community within an industry of this size. Conferences offer an array of technical sessions and networking opportunities to meet everyone's interests and needs, But attending too many big conferences too often will likely lead to burnout.

Events like the TAC Workshop provide the same benefits with a more manageable set-up. They do even more to foster the sense of community necessary for promoting both an individual tunneller's career and the greater industry.

The workshop environment better enables attendees to participate in the specific topic at hand, and provides more perspectives to the discussion.

TAC gets its right alternating its conferences and workshops year to year, and as a result the industry benefits thoroughly. Readers should definitely consider making a trip to Kingston this autumn if they are not already planning on doing so. With the growing focus on bringing younger engineers into tunnelling, holding this event at Queen's University is a good and timely fit for the current trends of the industry.

The workshop is being held in conjunction with the association's annual awards, for which TAC reports it has received an excellent response to its call for nominations.

Celebrating progress, achievements and advancements is equally as important as meeting at these events to discuss and promote them. It's well-established the mining industry is increasingly keeping a close eye on market potential in tunnelling. And as demand for coal-fired power plants continues to decrease that will only be amplified as companies attempt to diversify--so it has been said in the exhibit halls of TAC Vancouver 2014 and RETC, by attendees from outside of the tunnelling industry, hoping to expand into the market.

Be present and continue the conversation. Optimism, it is said, breeds success.