A Career That Will Make A Difference: Humanitarian Engineering
If you gave people the chance to pick one (realistic) career path for the rest of their lives, what do you think they would pick? Regardless of money, location, what you’re talented at. If you had to choose one area to work in, forever, right now, what would be your first choice?
I’d like to think I’m not in the only one who would consider a career in humanitarianism. I don’t think there is another option that can make you so motivated, so hard-working, and so proud of the work that you have accomplished than improving the welfare or happiness of someone else.
Within the last few years, the demand for those qualified in engineering, or in STEM based subjects (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), has shot up dramatically. Focus has been placed on evoking interest from the younger generations using innovative technology and amazing inventions.
But recently, the possibilities of humanitarian engineering have also come to light. These are engineers who specifically set out to design facilities, products and technologies to improve the lives of people around the world. There is even a Global Humanitarian Engineering Awards Ceremony!
Dr. Roger Gonzalez is an inspirational example of a renowned humanitarian engineer. This man is the president, CEO and founder of LIMBS International, a non-profit organization that develops innovative, highly functional but ultra low-cost above the knee prosthetics that can be made locally in developing countries.
Dr. Roger Gonzalez, who obtained a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, an MSc in Biomedical Engineering and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas, originally started the work in 2004. He is now Director of Leadership Engineering and a professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the same university.
LIMBS International, Inc, is committed to restoring mobility to millions of amputees in need around the world, whilst simultaneously empowering students and engaging communities. Dr Gonzalez has been presented with multiple awards for his work, whilst the company motto is: ‘the gift of mobility is the gift of life’. His work has truly changed the potential for prosthetics in developing countries where before, false limbs were not only of poorer quality, but also less readily available.
Now, back to changing dated perceptions of engineering and advanced manufacturing. Have you been swayed yet? The engineering profession has been transformed massively over recent decades and from marine engineering to biomedical engineering, or aerospace engineering to environmental engineering, the possibilities are now almost endless.
Embarking on a career in humanitarian engineering could not only be incredibly rewarding, but also lead to many amazing opportunities. Not only has Dr. Gonzalez made a positive change to hundreds of people’s lives, he has also travelled the world.
The potential to travel is a great advantage of career in engineering. According to Mike Rogers, professional development manager at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), ‘You may need to have at least two years’ engineering experience to work in some countries, but don’t be easily deterred – demand creates an opportunity.’
Businesses are seeking everyone from school-leavers to graduates, many offering apprenticeships, as long as students have studied STEM subjects at school and projects like The Big Bang are school-based initiatives based on encouraging interest in these subjects. Furthermore, the lack of females studying STEM subjects or progressing into advanced manufacturing or engineering careers is now being combated by new initiatives to encourage girls to take an interest in these subjects too. Shockingly, the UK has one of the lowest rates of female engineers in Europe, and this needs to change.
With an abundance of graduate jobs and schemes available and such high demand for engineers all over the world, engineering is currently being hailed as the gateway to opportunity; the utopia of job prospects. Add to that the fact that engineering falls within the top 10 for career satisfaction, and has one of the highest starting salaries around (that’s an average of £24,615 a year within the first six months of graduating, in case you were wondering) and, well; it’s hard not to see the appeal. However, if you’re going to take career inspiration from anybody, I think you will find Dr. Roger Gonzalez pretty hard to beat. This man is truly one of the most inspirational engineers of our time.