Think global act local

17 February 2016

As the magazine went to press the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) released statistics about emerging demand for tunnelling as well as the need to bring young engineers into the industry. The report says between 2009 and 2013 the global tunnelling and drilling equipment industry reached a 4.9 per cent annual growth rate, which will likely be sustained through to 2018. Much of this is due to demand in Asia, which had nearly half the market share in 2014.

Latin America, according to the ITA, had 6 per cent of the market share. However, the association optimistically reports mining exploitation in the underground is at the core of Latin America's economy. In Peru, for example, the mining industry occupies 20 per cent of the national territory. In 2014, to ensure energy self-sufficiency and in the face of considerable car-traffic growth, the country allocated USD 13,800M to public tenders linked to tunnelling construction.

What's more, looking to page 26 of this issue, there is strong support from the Peruvian government to continue developing its hydroelectric power generation potential- calling for at least 54 per cent of the nation's electricity to come from hydropower by 2025.

The ITA uses several testimonies from younger tunnellers to exemplify the demand for training and skills in these growing markets. And the ITA promotes its panel of education and training opportunities on offer, as well as the endorsement of five international, specialized masters. That thousands of students and young engineers worldwide have demonstrated a strong interest in tunnelling is a genuine success and good news for the industry.

However, the ITA, by nature of its existence, is of course going to take a global perspective. There are also numerous benefi ts to having global training and shared standards for tunnelling education. This is a global industry where it's not uncommon for a tunneller to work at a single company across three continents before hitting a 10-year employment anniversary.

All the while, each member country should always be mindful of retaining its skill set and collective knowledge while pursuing the loftier ideals of the worldwide industry. Yes, there are growing business opportunities abroad, and a shared sense of growing the industry and its younger membership is invaluable. But for any one country, losing a generation of tunnellers to opportunities abroad, educational or employment, can be a set back that takes decades to rectify. Leaning solely on the educational resources developed internationally could leave a country susceptible to brain drain. Invest in training and education locally, and strike a balance between the innovative programming developed in global initiatives and the unique strengths of your industry knowledge and challenges specific to your local markets