Bob Freudenthal

Embracing change

Bob Freudenthal
APWA President

In all walks of life, including the public works profession, change is constant. Successful people recognize change as a given, embrace the changes approaching them, and learn to take advantage of the changes. Change is only to be feared if you resist it, or if you don't see it coming. To paraphrase a line from a Star Trek movie: "Resistance is futile; change will catch up to you."

Two specific areas within public works in which change is underway are the engineering profession and, of course, the technologies applicable to public works. Through the work of our Technical Committees and our educational programs, APWA is a great resource to help you become aware of the approaching changes in our industry, understand them, and prepare for them.

Educational and licensing requirements for engineers and public works professionals are being reviewed by various industry organizations and changes are being discussed. Qualifications that were sufficient for the Baby Boomers and earlier generations may not be deemed sufficient for those up-and-coming professionals in Generations X or Y. Educational programs must be put in place to provide tomorrow's professionals the technical and leadership skills they will require in the future.

Thanks to advances in communication and data technologies, today we live in a truly global economy. The practice of "off-shoring" certain engineering services is growing; while it is certainly more prevalent in industries other than public works at the moment, off-shoring is a trend that should be understood and managed.

Project delivery methods are changing. While the traditional design-bid-build approach is still by far the most prevalent in our industry, the use of other value-based project delivery systems such as design-build and those involving a construction manager are becoming more common. This issue of the APWA Reporter includes an article describing the risks and rewards of using construction manager services with multiple prime contractors on a building project versus a traditional general contractor approach.

In a few areas of the United States, qualifications-based selection (QBS) of engineers, architects and consultants is being challenged in favor of selection methods that include price as a primary criterion. APWA has been and continues to be an advocate of QBS. A new edition of the APWA publication Selection and Use of Engineers, Architects and Professional Consultants - Guidelines for Public Agencies will be unveiled at this year's Congress in Kansas City. An educational session has been planned on Monday of Congress to discuss the new edition. This very popular publication has been updated to reflect recent trends in consultant selection and use practices, including the application of QBS to design-build and other value-based project delivery systems. The updated publication has been prepared by the Engineering and Technology Committee's Technical Publications Subcommittee, and has had the advantage of a peer review by representatives of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). We greatly appreciate the efforts of these volunteers.

Technology changes affecting public works and all other industries continue to be rapid and constant. The challenge of staying current with applicable new technologies is daunting, but also necessary and possible. It is heartening to hear about public works managers in communities of all sizes using technologies like GPS and GIS to manage their communities' infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. Again, APWA educational opportunities, including sessions at Congress and at chapter conferences, Click, Listen, and Learn webcasts, articles in the APWA Reporter, and the infoNOW Communities are all excellent resources from which you can learn about new technologies that can help you deliver the best possible service to your community. Examples of uses of technology in public works you will read about in this issue include video-based roadway asset inventories, the use of handheld GPS units to inventory storm sewer outfalls, 3-D surveying, and the use of GPS and AVL for dispatch purposes.

Technology will continue to change well after the last Baby Boomer has left the public works profession. The adaptation of tomorrow's technologies to public works will be in the hands of the younger public works professionals of today, and those who will enter the profession in the future. Without a doubt, if those of us in public works today demonstrate that our profession embraces new technologies and change, we will be able to attract a greater number of smart, energetic, hardworking Generation X and Y professionals to the field of public works. There would be no better legacy.