"At ZHAW, we focus STEM promotion on children and young people from secondary school onwards. In our programs, we place increased emphasis on getting girls interested in STEM fields. Only if enough female and male engineers are available to the economy can Switzerland maintain its excellent position as one of the most innovative countries in the world." (Image above: Dirk Wilhelm)
Responses from Dirk Wilhelm, Director ZHAW, School of Engineering, President FTAL:
When and in what context did you first hear about Engineers' Day (then Engineers' Day)?
I learned about Engineers' Day through Swiss Engineering in 2018, and the ZHAW School of Engineering has been involved as an active partner since 2019. Since then, we have been holding Engineers' Day events in Winterthur.
You have prominently volunteered to be a patron member. Why are you involved in this event?
I think it is very important to make the profession of engineering more widely known in society and to present it in a positive light. Engineers shape the future of our society. They are instrumental in solving our challenges, which lie, for example, in the areas of sustainable development, secure energy supply, digitalization, an aging society and changes in healthcare. I therefore also consider engineering education to be an important social task.
What goal or goals would you highlight as the most important priority in terms of your involvement in Engineers' Day or in everyday life?
According to various analyses and surveys, the shortage of skilled workers in the engineering sector is very great in Switzerland. And this will remain so for the foreseeable future. That's why the first goal, promoting the next generation of engineers, especially future female engineers, is of crucial importance. At the ZHAW, we focus STEM promotion on children and young people from secondary school onwards. In our programs, we place increased emphasis on getting girls interested in STEM fields.
Making the achievements of female and male engineers visible in society is also of great importance. Especially in view of the UN's 17 SDG Goals. At the same time, making them visible promotes dialog with the general population.
Why do you think engineers and their achievements are not perceived enough in everyday life and what can engineers do about it?
Unfortunately, there is a certain skepticism about technology in most European countries. The media also like to promote this, since problems and risks sell better in the media than positive news. In the USA and many Asian countries, this is often different. Natural sciences and technology are held in higher esteem and have a higher status there. Actively promoting positive results in the traditional media and in social media can help to counteract skepticism about technology.
If you had one wish to be able to influence the promotion of young talent even more, to whom would it go and what would that wish be?
Mathematics, science and technology should be given a higher priority in elementary school so that children, especially girls, can become enthusiastic about these areas at an early age. Accordingly, the wish goes to those responsible for school education.
Do you have another wish in connection with Engineers' Day?
Which future challenge(s) do you see as the most important, for which we urgently need more female and male engineers?
Engineers will continue to make a significant contribution to the energy turnaround, to the challenges in healthcare, to the digitalization of the world of work and also to society in general. Only if enough engineers are available to the economy can Switzerland maintain its excellent position as one of the most innovative countries in the world.
Thank you very much for this interview.
Further information about ZHAW: www.zhaw.ch