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Underground Construction Association Seeks Young Professionals at RETC 2019


Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference 2019

Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference 2019 Features Support For Young Professionals

RETC, the Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference is the nation’s preeminent tunneling and underground construction conference, this year to be held at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, from June 16-19th. For young professionals, the UCA (Underground Construction Association) is providing even more incentive to attend the tunneling industry’s “can’t miss” event. The UCA released details about skills support for young members in a press release at Tunnel Talk, highlighting the need for more professional talent as the tunneling and underground construction industry continues to grow.

The UCA’s Young Member Committee will provide ongoing support for young tunneling professionals with a series of webinars, specialist seminars, networking opportunities, and important career-building links between the underground construction industry and universities. The UCA at this year’s RETC 2019 will host a Young Members networking event and a scholarship orientation for students who have won bursaries for attending the conference.

All of this comes at a time when major projects have been completed over the past decade while a host of new complex infrastructure projects await. UCA Young Members founder Anthony Bauer summed it up in an interview at Tunnel Business magazine saying,

“Support of groups like the UCA Young Members is key in recruiting talented professionals to the industry and encouraging the continual professional development of those already within the industry.”

Young underground construction professionals can look forward to a long and lucrative career taking on some of the most ambitious engineering challenges. Along with the most innovative projects such as Elon Musk’s “People Mover” featuring autonomous vehicles operating at high speed in a 200-acre tunnel system beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center, the underground construction industry tackles complex engineering projects including:

  • vehicular and rail transit routes
  • nuclear waste repositories
  • superconducting supercolliders
  • combined sewer overflow control

Emerging Trends in the Tunneling Industry For 2019 and Beyond

In the Tunnel Business interview, all three industry experts agreed that they were “bullish” or “fairly bullish” about the current state of the tunneling industry. Aging infrastructure and increasing populations are the two major drivers for the industry in the near future. As populations increase, especially in the nation’s coastal areas, space comes at a premium and underground construction to move the masses becomes the most viable solution.

Sarah Miller, who served as Resident Engineer on two separate $200-$300 million contracts working on San Francisco’s subway system, explained her concern about attracting enough talent to allow the industry to handle projects now on the drawing board including “the new Hudson River tunnels, California High-Speed Rail, Water Fix, and others.” Miller also noted that the industry must focus on marketing to students who are at the point of choosing their careers in a civil construction sector where “competition from other cutting edge industries is strong”.

Wes Morrison is the regional manager for MAPEI’s Underground Technology Team, responsible for all of the company’s underground construction and mining projects in both the US and Canada. Morrison agrees with his colleagues that the tunneling industry, like much of the civil construction sector, is lagging behind in adopting transformational technologies.

The exception is in TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) technology which Morrison stated: “is constantly evolving, allowing us to build larger tunnels in a greater variety of ground conditions”. Morrison also cited the need for his industry to embrace Big Data technologies and smart sensors to automate and improve the tunneling process in real time in order to boost productivity.

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