Director of Asset Strategy and Projects
Office of Projects Victoria, Department of Treasury and Finance
Luke Belfield is the Director of Asset Strategy and Projects at the Office of Projects Victoria, Department of Treasury and Finance within the Victorian Government. Luke has a diverse background, having previously worked in a variety of roles including at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, as a management consultant for PwC and EY, as a project manager for a metropolitan based water utility and as an engineer for a large global engineering consultancy in the oil and gas and petrochemical industry.
Luke has qualifications in mechanical engineering, computer science, business administration and accounting and is a chartered member of Engineers Australia in the Mechanical as well as the Leadership and Management colleges.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I joined Engineers Australia as a student member in 2001 whilst studying engineering at Melbourne University.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I was encouraged to pursue engineering by my father as I had a natural leaning towards maths and science (even though English was my best mark in high school). More importantly, I wanted the opportunity to help solve some of society’s complex and important challenges. Engineering has allowed me to do this, as well as pursuing a lifelong love of learning, whilst being constantly challenged and contributing positively to society.
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Nearly everything an engineer does is directed towards the benefit of society – whether that be designing and building better components/systems, infrastructure, industries or societies. As I work in government, nearly everything I do is aimed at benefiting society. Given my diverse experience and qualifications I believe I have been able to better translate the domains of the political, commercial and technical to achieve more balanced and better outcomes in decision making.
In my previous role I was fortunate to have the opportunity to reshape the direction and implementation of Victoria’s value creation and capture policy: a policy intended to leverage the state’s investments in infrastructure projects to deliver increased environmental, social and economic benefits to society. The implementation of such policies will have a lasting, beneficial impact on our growing cities.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
I have been lucky to work on many exciting projects. Whether it be working on a major oil refinery upgrade just outside of Brisbane (which had a major upset during construction), the upgrade of a water quality treatment plant in Canberra (which won an industry innovation award – the smell will never leave you), advising government or clients on their ambitious or risky projects, or advising the Premier on complex project decisions. They are all memorable and certainly all were challenging and interesting!
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Prominence in decision making and advocacy – engineers need to be more successful in articulating their value to society and the importance of their advice and input into decision making.
At a project level there is currently a huge shortage of experienced engineers to support the delivery of Australia’s infrastructure pipeline. This causes increased pressure, with projects becoming more expensive and taking longer to deliver, as well as the increased potential for mistakes in design and construction that can endanger people’s health, achievement of the project outcomes and our reputation as a profession.
Increasing diversity in the profession is a perennial challenge which will require engineering leaders to improve the attractiveness of the profession for all (especially females and the young). Diversity is needed to achieve better decision making and outcomes (not just engineering) through sourcing a wider range of approaches to a problem, experiences, thinking and skills.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
It’s exciting to see more of a convergence of professions, collaboration and the prominence of the profile of engineers. It’s great to see more engineers playing a role in a variety of non-traditional engineering roles (such as my experience working in management consulting or policy advice) and help shape decision making. Engineers do still need to strengthen their abilities to articulate their opinions and argue a case – not just being great at maths or science. This is important as engineers are increasingly required to work with politicians, scientists, lawyers and people from all sorts of backgrounds to deliver wider societal benefits.
The rapid pace of innovation which is being driven by engineering ingenuity and the increased access to an abundance of information is also exciting. This is leading to disruption of industries and a reduction in the silos across all part of society and industries, not to mention innovation which we once thought was inconceivable.
Who is your engineering hero?
My engineering heroes are the people who have made time to mentor me throughout my career. Who have inspired me to challenge my thinking and fostered an ability for me to think outside of the box and pursue the ambition of lifelong learning.
If I was to pick a hero it would be the likes of Elon Musk, Leonardo da Vinci or Galileo Galilei who stand up for what they believe in despite the barriers, are naturally curious and creative, are an inspiration and have made a lasting impact on society.
Image: provided by Luke Belfield