Hvordan gjøre brannteknikk spennende for nyutdannede?
Mange firmaer starter en rekrutteringsprosess blant siste års universitets- eller høyskole-studenter. Flere vil nok hevde at dette er tidlig, da studentene har mange måneder igjen av studiene. Men likevel er dette praksisen i mange land. Bedriftene vil ofte sørge for å sikre seg de beste kandidatene før de valser alene ut på arbeidsmarkedet. Mulig flere bedrifter burde tenke nytt i forhold til hvilken utdannelse kandidatene skal ha innenfor ulike arbeidstitler og fagfelt ...
Ever since I ventured into the world of fire engineering, a bit over 3 years ago, I started realizing how under-represented our profession is, around the world. Some countries have it better than others, such as Norway, where I studied, or England, where I’m currently working. Nevertheless, the need to educate people, and especially graduates, to our profession is immensely important. The recent incidents with fires around the world, such as Grenfell tower tragedy and the large number of wildfire fires igniting everywhere, have opened more eyes towards the necessity and importance of fire engineering, a field that is proving to be just as essential as any other engineering discipline, be it mechanical or structural or electrical or any other.
As fire engineering is a profession that usually requires a university degree, most people think that those within other disciplines cannot become fire engineers. However, that understanding is far from realistic.
Who can become a fire engineer?
While the United Kingdom has several universities that offer both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in fire engineering, the profession isn’t as regulated as much as it is in Norway. In England specifically, any one with a degree in engineering can most likely become a fire engineer, of course if they have an interest in the field. This opens the doors to so many graduates who have finished a degree in, let’s say, chemical engineering, to become fire engineers. This is mostly achieved through graduate programs that larger firms have the ability to conduct and sponsor. During those programs, engineers from various disciplines learn more about the world of fire engineering and how to apply their already acquired skills into a new set of experiences.
Why is it important to attract other disciplines?
While fire engineers with a specialised degree can easily integrate into their profession, the presence of other disciplines is also very essential. Other degrees mean a vast plethora of experiences, new sets of skills, and an open multidisciplinary mind. A chemical engineer, for example, already has the basic knowledge about fire; how it ignites, its chemical combination, toxicants and pollutants, smoke, etc. They would also know a lot about materials and their properties, as well as how they would react to a fire. All they would need is to learn more about how to apply their “chemical” expertise specifically into fire. An electrical engineer would already know a lot about cables and their safety, fire alarm and detection systems, backup power supply, and others. A façade engineer already has a vast knowledge about façade systems, their assembly, materials, and configurations. These can all be fed into creating better solutions for fire safety in buildings, and can thus give this engineer a huge advancement over his/ her peers.
My experience as an architect
As I was first educated as an architectural engineer during my undergraduate studies, I had never thought that I’d become a fire engineer one day. As architects, we’re mostly taught to think with the left side of our brain, the artistic side. That can sometimes yield more artistic results than practical ones. Diving into fire engineering during my postgraduate studies, I was taught reasonable and practical thinking and problem solving, as well as exploring options that might not always be the “prettiest” or the easiest. The dilemma I faced was when I tried combining the two together, which wasn’t the easiest job to do, especially at first. Currently, when I talk to architects that I work with on projects, I fully understand their frustration when we’re changing something in the design, but I also understand where we – as fire engineers – are coming from.
Fire safety as a career change
I believe one of the greatest things that fire engineering has to offer is a complete derail in a career, like it was for me. With sufficient training and education, that can even be completely done on the job, anyone with relevant engineering qualifications, can become a fire engineer. Any background and skills acquired before going into fire engineering will most definitely be used on the job. It’s a specialisation that requires critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, attention to details, and a firm focus on protecting life safety. Everything else that’s technical can be learned on a daily basis if the commitment, dedication, and passion are there.
Towards multi-disciplinary fire safety
Fire safety is a discipline that needs a lot of skills, but that can also be specialised towards a specific set of skills. For instance, an electrical engineer that has turned into a fire engineer can become an alarm and detection specialist. A chemical engineer turned into a fire engineer can become the Lithium-Ion batteries specialist as well as the gas and foam suppression systems specialist. A structural engineer can become the structural fire engineering specialist and work on the mass timber projects that are currently trending ... and the list goes on and on. Fire engineering is a discipline that needs other disciplines to work together to achieve its goal, ensuring more safe environments for people. Those experts from all disciplines should work together on projects to achieve that goal within their own field. However, a fire engineer from various backgrounds can also ensure that the other requirements are covered within the fire strategies, not only the other way around.
Holistic fire safety
It will never be the case that one person knows everything there is to know, in any field. Nevertheless, the more we educate various backgrounds about fire engineering, the more diverse and holistic this profession will become, and thus the more successful we will be at achieving the ultimate goal, a safer world. A holistic profession is that which combines the vision of an architect with the “materials” knowledge of a chemical engineer, with the detailed critical thinking of an electrical engineer, with the futuristic rationale of a software engineer. All together, we can change the world.