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Time for licenced Engineers?

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Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Gareth Wood on Jan 10, 2018 1:32 pm

As a result of a discussion within a Linkedin group. I had originally raised the issue of the EC UK or IET legally licencing Engineers and had agreed to bring this discussion from Linkedin to the IET members in an appropriate community for a frank and open debate.
​The circumstances surrounding this discussion was the tragedy of Grenfell Towers and my personal observation that some of the alleged decision makers, had no technical qualifications to make decisions on public safety. I am wondering how far the inquiry will go to reveal that issue. 

As I currently work in Canada we do have an act of law governing the conduct of its licenced Engineers and this makes the Engineer have some higher degree of responsibility for public safety.

​Questions
1)    Given the impact of Grenfell, does EC(UK) have to now start considering licencing? What are the perceived hurdles to achieve this?
​2)    If not. What can we do within our profession to improve pubic safety with an objective to prevent another 'Grenfell' ?

I am ​Interested to get IET members responses.
 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Moshe Waserman on Jan 7, 2019 3:33 am

Licensing Engineers in the UK is internal to the UK. 
What I can add to the discussion is what I see and my opinion from the USA.
I think If such licensing will be mandated and regulated I'm sure that the industry leaders may demand, oppose, lobby and act to balance such requirements
with what in the US is called Industrial Exemption. Businesses see restrictions in hiring and economic cost to the industry so
a balance is needed in order to ensure public safety without hurting the local economy.

One example: licensing can be motivated by the self-interest.
There can be significant economic and social benefits to the licensee that result from attaching a mandatory license to an occupation.

In the US Kleiner of the University of Minnesota, in a study conducted with Alan B. Krueger, concluded that requiring a licensing for an occupation can increase salaries by as much as fifteen percent. 
Not long ago in the US a Governor of a Midwestern state was approached by representatives of a particular trade anxious to enlist the Governor’s support in securing passage of legislation to license their trade. “Governor,” the representative said, “passage of this licensing act will ensure that only qualified people will practice this occupation; it will eliminate charlatans, incompetents or frauds; and it will thereby protect the safety and welfare of the people of this state.” The Governor, from long experience, was somewhat skeptical. “Gentlemen,” he asked, “are you concerned with advancing the health, safety, and welfare of the people under the police powers of this state, or are you primarily interested in creating a monopoly situation to eliminate competition and raise prices?” The spokesman for the occupational group smiled and said, “Governor, we’re interested in a little of each.”

Even with monetary benefits to be reaped from licensing, US engineers have been surprisingly ambivalent toward licensing, if not outright rejecting of it. In a striking enigma, an overwhelming majority of engineers— one study shows somewhere around eighty percent —do not pursue licensing.

MW 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Jan 8, 2019 10:41 am

As several answers have illustrated there are many rules, regulations and “best practice” models influencing “who can do what” in different sectors, especially so in safety critical environments.  The consequences for any organisation failing to exercise due care can be considerable.  For example, the parent group of my previous employer needed to turnover several billion pounds in order to recover the losses arising from a non-fatal (but very disruptive) accident. The primary cause of which was inadequate supervision, allowing a group of workers to “cut corners”, to maximise their productivity bonus payment.  As I suggested by my previous post, in my experience the UK has a very strong health, safety, environmental protection and risk management culture. 

As Andy touched upon, some would argue that this is excessive and a potential “drag” on productivity and competitive advantage. Some politicians and sections of the media find easy pickings in “elf & safety” as a symptom of mindlessly applied rules (blame EU!) or excessive fear of litigation (blame USA!). Similar suspects are of course the first to howl in outrage when something goes wrong. Even we get sucked in to the blame culture and assume that “unlicensed engineers” are a problem. As I think the discussion has touched upon; Do those engineers who seek personal responsibility and the exclusion of (less qualified) others, accept the consequences of being held personally to blame?  Where the risk is modest it can be carried by an individual or SME, but with increasing risk comes a need for major organisations with deep pockets (including states). Those responsible at strategic level, therefore need systems to evaluate competence, apportion responsibility appropriately and ensure feedback mechanisms to monitor performance. 

My focus would be; how can the IET and other professional engineering institutions best add value?  I don’t have the answer, but a few thoughts.

 
  • It is understandable that those who have invested greatly in education, training and career progression, should seek a fair ration of advantage for their efforts.  For those who find themselves interacting with other “prestigious” graduate professions, such as academia, medicine and the law, relative status is a natural concern. However, I’m not clear that being a Chartered Engineer is held in any less esteem than many comparisons such as Accountancy, Surveying etc. An unfortunate and major negative side effect of this search for status, is a focus on elitism and sometimes unreasonable negative stereotyping of other competent practitioners of good conduct.  Such motives and similar behaviours manifest themselves in other skilled work groups, or almost any group for that matter, it’s just sociology/social psychology. 
 
  • Early in my career as an apprentice I joined the Electrician’s Union, then a Engineers and Managers one (now Prospect) which also had a PEI element. The government of the time stopped this, so Engineering Council affiliated PEI’s explicitly cannot engage in Trades Union type activity. However many PEIs are de-facto Chartered Engineer’s “unions”, albeit of a different character.  Moshe as he has so often done, helps us to understand this in an international context.  I have not seen any evidence that where lobbying of politicians by university educated Engineer’s representatives has achieved some form of statutory “protection”, standards are higher than in the UK. Is there evidence that I have missed? Earnings may of course be higher if supply is choked and demand created.
 
  • The evolution of formal groups of professionals either as unions or learned societies led to fragmentation and specialised silos, often reinforced by “closed shop” behaviours. This has benefits where tightly focussed specialist expertise is needed, but you need a lot of different specialists to cover anything of scale.  The IIE pulled back together some of this fragmentation and the IET carried on that momentum, unfortunately hampered by IMechE not joining in, but they were spurred on by “competition” which always offers some benefits. If as engineers we want to exercise strategic level influence then greater unity is essential. Otherwise we will only be called when someone needs our type of expert.   
 
  • In its current form our system of recognition was evolved mainly by academics.  Without applying a specifically UK cultural perspective; “A History of the International Engineering Alliance and its Constituent Agreements: Toward Global Engineering Education and Professional Competence Standards” (International Engineering Alliance 2015) states.

A useful starting point is to note that the engineering of the Industrial Revolution had been essentially practical. During the Industrial Revolution a division of labour took place between engineers, who, while still essentially practical were responsible for the conception and design of machinery and those skilled in their construction – who we today call technicians. While scientific discoveries continued engineering remained practical into the early twentieth century before science-based-engineering became established . As the science base of engineering developed a further division occurred in the second half of the twentieth century, the emergence of the engineering technologist, skilled at applying established technology as distinct from the science-based professional engineer. Thus, in the period covered by this history the roles of professional engineer, engineering technologist and engineering technician exist in many jurisdictions. 

A two-stage model for professional engineering formation was well-developed in the original six and subsequently admitted signatory jurisdictions. For example, the development of a professional engineer to the level required for independent practice has an education stage, normally provided by an externally accredited program of 4 or 5 years duration post-secondary school, followed by a period of supervised training while gaining experience in engineering practice. The individual may then have his or her competence assessed, and be eligible for recognition as a competent engineering practitioner and qualify for registration or licencing. This model underlies the agreements and standards described in this history.   
  
  • Does this frame of reference help us to identify “who can do what”?  Bob explained how he first gained practical understanding and experience alongside appropriate theory (an apprenticeship) before extending his learning to meet the “academic requirements” for Chartered Engineer. I don’t know how relevant that learning was to his further development, but I recognise and respect the effort involved. I faced a similar decision at the age of 21 with an apprenticeship and  HNC behind me. The degree syllabus didn’t seem relevant to my needs, logistics and indirect costs were difficult and I took a two-year part-time industrial management course at my local polytechnic instead, working the hours back, although my employer paid the fees.  I eventually carried significant responsibility for developing and evaluating the competence of Technicians and Engineers, but with the emphasis on operations, maintenance and even corporate strategy, rather than design or research and development. Most of the assumptions underlying our current model of CEng assume that the latter supersedes and subsumes the former by being “intellectually superior”.  This argument has some merits and draws on models like Bloom’s Taxonomy for justification, but also has very many serious flaws in practice.

I mentioned in my previous post “putting our own house in order”. This for me this means using our collective capability to nurture our members towards delivering higher performance. Performance can be measured in many ways, not just academically, or aligned to our personal interpretation of UK-SPEC (of which there are many). Carrying out assessment reviews for the purposes of registration helps to an extent, but for most people it’s a “one off” and for many has seemed more like an alumni society, especially in some other PEIs. The IET has made recent commendable efforts to engage other types of practitioners like Electricians for example, but has also been culpable in allowing Engineering Council to pander to the agenda of some CEng for “clearer superiority”. As I said to Engineering Council at the time, they were just “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and they lost moral legitimacy in my eyes. This type of one-upmanship has nothing whatsoever to do with competence and it has merely increased the ratio of registered CEng compared to the other two categories.

Among the many excellent CEng that I regularly encounter few need any “protection”, since their achievements often speak louder than their title.  A few employers lack the wherewithal and commitment to ensure the competence of their employees, but most make a respectable effort.  Perhaps we should establish a library of anonymous poor practice examples?  I used years ago to receive a magazine highlighting every significant electrical accident in the UK Electricity Supply Industry, with an explanation of the causes, which became part of the training syllabus as appropriate, perhaps becoming a simulated scenario. In the same way, aviation accidents are incorporated into Pilot Training usually in simulators. Engineers working with “established technology” often can’t afford to crash or even hamper the productivity of sometimes immensely valuable assets, yet they are assumed to be of “lower” IEng competence, a “Technologist” or a “Technician”. De-facto an academic semester of calculus is held to have more value than many thousands of hours of relevant vocational practice. 

I have made constructive suggestions in these forums for a better approach that I won’t repeat here, but if we can build greater credibility outside our existing strongholds, more stakeholders would come to see being a registrant as a desirable and accurate quality mark, rather than a historic qualification or “honorific” that it is now.  We gain nothing by undermining our premium CEng brand and those who govern the profession wouldn’t dare to offend anyway, since “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” is poised with pen (or keyboard) in hand.  I can’t see a valid argument for statutory protection of the term engineer, but I want to support something stronger than we have. Unfortunately, during the last ten years when I have been more actively involved, my enthusiasm on the basis of our current proposition has cooled considerably. I’m sorry to say that I have found the arguments put forward by some CEng or on their behalf, very poor, naively “entitled” and unbecoming of someone “at the top” of their profession.  

If Bob or anyone else for that matter identifies a risk in their domain, then there is nothing to prevent them from identifying the relevant stakeholders  and building a case for change. To make a broad based strategic argument that all “engineers” should be “licensed” is much more difficult and I would take a lot of persuading.  We have successfully persuaded some regulators, major employers and others to value professional registration as an element of due diligence and risk management.  Unfortunately as I see it, good quality and well thought out arguments around “who should do what” are undermined by those who assume intellectual superiority and entitlement.  As I see it engineers should mainly be practical and pragmatic users of science, not "watered down" scientists. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2014/nov/21/university-engineering-departments-overalls-research



 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Jan 8, 2019 11:26 am

Roy Bowdler:

De-facto an academic semester of calculus is held to have more value than many thousands of hours of relevant vocational practice. 
 
Roy,
I share your frustration. As someone who has always done well at maths and having had no problems with calculus either at school or university, I can confirm that it has been next to useless to me compared to the relevant hours of experience I need to be a good engineer. I also fully support your comment that "Where the risk is modest it can be carried by an individual or SME" and (unusually) disagree with the other Roy (Pemberton) where he says "I'm not including Eng Tech as I feel it would be unreasonable to place the burden of sign-off on an engineering technician". If the sign off is within the expertise and capability of Eng Tech then why can't he/she sign it off? As an example I wouldn't expect to need a CEng to sign off a BS7671 installation (and many CEng will probably not have the right experience to do so - myself included, having always dealt with different regulations). It is always a case of having an appropriate individual taking the responsibility.
Alasdair

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Andy Millar on Jan 8, 2019 1:45 pm

Hi Roy,

Very interesting post (and, as a side point, the first time I've seen an explanation of "engineering technologist" that makes sense to me!)

As an additional thought to provoke discussion, in the UK rail industry up to the 2000s there was the usual "who is at fault"/"who can we prosecute" investigation following rail accidents, which, particularly at the height of privatisation, inevitably lead to hiding, closed doors, and closed mouths which didn't in the long term help anyone. The system in place now is, broadly, that the Rail Accident Investigation Branch exists to determine the root causes of accidents, not to apportion blame. This "carrot" of working together to improve standards seems to be far more effective at raising standards than the previous "stick" of (to put it VERY simplistically) threatening prosecution of individuals and companies. Reading through RAIB reports it is noticeable that accidents due to actual individual negligence are very rare, more usual is for accidents to occur due to weaknesses in processes (particularly at the boundaries between different organisations). Accidents due to lack of competence, which I guess would be what licensing would attempt to address, lie somewhere in the middle. But my impression from the RAIB reports is that such lack of competence tends to be specific rather than general - someone is competent in their general role, but does not have competence in a very specific aspect. Common examples relate to particular operational arrangements, and - most importantly - typically the staff involved "don't know what they don't know", it's not that they haven't bothered to learn the arrangements, they simply don't know such arrangements exist. Which again typically becomes an organisational process problem. Which in turn why those of us who work in safety assurance spend far more time looking at processes than we do at individual competences.

The RAIB reports are publicly available, and if someone wants a nice Master's project then using them as a case study to research the question "would licensing all engineering roles improve public safety - a case study from the rail industry" then it would be very interesting to see the outcome. (I'm quite serious, it really would make an excellent basis for such a project. If anyone does do it please send me a copy of your dissertation!)

The PEI / Trade Union point is very interesting. Personally I think this is a very useful distinction - trying to regulate the profession and represent your members would be almost bound to lead to occasional conflicts of interest. I think we do have a problem in that many members do see the PEIs as trade unions, hence the frustration of "why aren't the PEIs pushing for protection of the 'engineers' title so we can all earn more money?" - they're not because that's absolutely not their role! I suppose I picked this up from my father, who was a very active union member from the 1930s, and was always very clear that his roles in NALGO (now UNISON) were quite separate to his membership (and CEng) with the Institute of Fuel.

So I suppose the PEIs role in this debate would depend on why licensed engineer status was being sought. If it is is to improve individuals "status", pay, or to protect jobs then that's nothing to do with the PEIs (there's a difference between the status of the professional registration titles, which is a PEI/EC problem, and the status of individual engineers which is a TU problem). But if there's evidence that licensed engineer status would provide a safer environment for society then the PEIs could well have a role in the discussion.

Cheers,

Andy
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Andy Millar on Jan 8, 2019 1:51 pm

Thanks Alasdair, that's exactly what I had in mind when mentioning EngTech - similarly my usual example of being reassured if validation tests are carried out and signed off by an EngTech, even though the tests were specified by an IEng. The most impressive safety case often relies in the end on tests being carried out competently "to the book".
 
Ahh..the wonderful day when every engineering signature we see is backed up by the appropriate level of professional registration smiley
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Jan 8, 2019 2:27 pm

Andy,  To broaden the scope of your comments on RAIB, I believe the way the RAIB is set up is very much along the lines of the MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) as everything you have said about the RAIB is also applicable to the MAIB. The only drawback with the MAIB (I can't speak for the RAIB) is that they have KPIs which include the number of recommendations made, so they sometimes seem to be including recommendations just for the sake of meeting their KPIs.
Alasdair

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Andy Millar on Jan 8, 2019 4:18 pm

Reminds me of the time in a past company when I got a phone call from a board meeting: "we've just realised we've got no KPIs for Engineering, you need to give us something right now that you can be measured on". (I suggested we thought about what would be useful to measure rather than just having KPIs to be seen to have KPIs, but that was seen as a silly suggestion.) One suggestion was that we should measure how many Engineering Change Records we had implemented each week, when I asked whether the right answer would be a high number (because we were doing lots of work)  or a low number (because we had made very few mistakes) the phone finally went silent and I could get back on with some work...

KPIs can be useful, but too many business implement the wrong KPIs, and then believe they are telling them something useful - right until the business goes bust.

Sorry, way off topic smiley But it did amuse me.

RAIB probably are measured on the number of their recommendations, but I do still like their reports. The report on the Croydon Tram accident https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a2a6289ed915d458e4214ba/R182017_181024_Sandilands_v2.pdf  I'd recommend to anyone entering the world of safety engineering as an exemplar of quite how many different contributory factors can lead to a horrific and avoidable accident. I was thinking about this when writing my earlier post: when the report was first released the press picked up on "the driver fell asleep" - the grossest of oversimplifications. What was interesting, in the context of this thread, is that despite the numerous engineering issues that related to the root causes and severity for this incident the only competence recommendation (that I can see at a brief re-read) relates to the competence of the managers supervising drivers to ensure they are managing workload and rest periods to best practice. So should managers be licensed?

Cheers,

Andy
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Jan 8, 2019 9:08 pm

Firstly, a like didn't seem anything like enough for Roy B's post - I always expect a good and interesting view from Roy, but I think this one exceeds even his norm for useful and interesting information!

Secondly, Alasdair, i think I maybe didn't make myself clear enough. I was not saying that an Engineering Tech can't undertake sign-off if their competence covers it, but that it is unreasonable for an organisation to place the responsibility for sign off on an Engineering Tech (i.e. to make it a requirement for them to do so) - my point being that organizations can and do place the responsibility for sign off on I.Eng or C.Eng (or an equivalent in their own general competence assessments, given my point was that one or the other is required, registration being only one way to satisfy that) and that is reasonable and to be expected if you are operating at that level, but it would be unreasonable for them to place that responsibility on an eng tech.  Let's not forget the maxim "you can delegate authority, but you can't delegate responsibility". 

It may well be that the person who has reasonably been required to take responsibility for sign off delegates the task of assessing suitability for sign off of an engineering solution to an engineering tech (or indeed any other suitably competent person), but it would be unreasonable to expect them to be accountable for that sign off, hence they still have to satisfy themselves that the assessment is suitable and sufficient and provide the sign off so that the accountability sits at their level, not the Eng Tech.

Indeed, this is an excellent development opportunity and could be used as evidence to submit in an application to upgrade registration level.

As a little side-track anecdote as an analogy, when i made the ridiculously (for me) bad career choice on first leaving school of entering accountancy, within a year as Articled Clerk, I reached the point where I and my fellow Articled Clerks did all of the work of preparing accounts and producing audit reports, which then went through to the Partners (Chartered Accountants) for sign off, and the meeting to present accounts to the client. From our perception it seemed grossly unfair that we clerks on a Bob Cratchett level pittance (really, this was the '70''s - £8pw which was way below what we would now call the minimum wage) did all the work whilst these Partners sat in their plush offices, drove their luxury cars, and were wined and dined by clients after only signing on the dotted line of the work done by us. But I now wonder how we would have reacted if somebody had offered us the opportunity to do the sign off but then explained the accountability implications of doing so! Yes, undoubtedly there were elements of Chartership being a badge, a status symbol and a one-off 'prize' with no subsequent requirement to satisfy anybody as to ongoing competence or CPD, but as I say, this was the '70's. 

Which leads me to answer another point raised - if there is any value to be gained by pursuing a licensing scheme it most definitely should be focused on attaining suitable and sufficient engineering standard of practice, not to support status or remuneration aspirations. Yes, it's right to renumerate appropriately, but that should arise from worth, not from the award of a licence.
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Moshe Waserman on Jan 9, 2019 4:09 am

Roy Bowdler:

De-facto an academic semester of calculus is held to have more value than many thousands of hours of relevant vocational practice. 

------------------

Many Engineers are leveraging engineering calculations in their design process. 
The math is needed to solve the challenges in leveraging engineering knowledge in product design.
Many times calculations are the heart of engineering information. Engineers and their team must be able to find, reuse, and share this important intellectual property.

While there ate tools to be used such as Mathcad and Engineering Notebook etc the fact is that Engineers do use maths and sciences and this is why part of the licensing requirements in the US is written exams in order to cover calculations and also graduation from programs that cover the important math for the engineers.
 
Moshe W  BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Jan 9, 2019 8:31 am

Roy (Pemberton),
With your more detailed explanation of what you meant I think I can follow and can agree with what I think you mean (which is not quite as you say). My understanding would be that the organisation can place the responsibility for sign of on a contract on an Eng Tech (assuming he/she has the requisite experience and knowledge for that project) but the decision on what level the authority can be delegated to is made by a higher level of authority within the organisation.
Alasdair

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Philip Oakley on Jan 9, 2019 12:40 pm

Roy Bowdler said:

De-facto an academic semester of calculus is held to have more value than many thousands of hours of relevant vocational practice. 

------------------
Moshe W replied:
Many Engineers are leveraging engineering calculations in their design process. 
The math is needed to solve the challenges in leveraging engineering knowledge in product design.
Many times calculations are the heart of engineering information. Engineers and their team must be able to find, reuse, and share this important intellectual property.

While there ate tools to be used such as Mathcad and Engineering Notebook etc the fact is that Engineers do use maths and sciences and this is why part of the licensing requirements in the US is written exams in order to cover calculations and also graduation from programs that cover the important math for the engineers.
 
--------

Just to support some of this, the majority of Engineers will be using derived formulae, graphs and tables from text books, process instructions and standards that already embed the algebra, calculus and core science principles. This forms a chain of trust back to the 'few' that enjoy that level of academic rigour. That chain of trust can look like a hierarchy, however when we consider the choice of the equation (et al) selection, for inclusion in the text books, or selection for use, we find that the 'chain of trust' starts branching and creating a mesh network as we also add the core experiences of real practitioners. It is at this point that, depending on viewpoint a new 'hierarchy' is perceived, when in reality is a broad consensus across a range of areas (say A-E in some schemes ;-).

The question is one of how is trust created and maintained, and defended when the beliefs that supported that trust are being replaced or undermined. Often, as Engineers, we have done too well in making people too comfy and they forget the old problems and create new (social) problems that can't themselves be solved by technology or technique. E.g. https://dilbert.com/strip/2019-01-08 and more relevantly the disconnect of Cognitive Dissonance and Out of Context problems (The Scott Adams Dilbert blogs have some discussions on it..).

The Grenfell fire disaster fits that slow forgetting cycle (e.g. the Summerland fire and others before and after). 'It' is a problem of the human condition... The network of trust fades to a chain and then breaks.

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Jan 9, 2019 8:31 pm

I would certainly accept the proposition that mathematics is an important element underpinning the competence of many engineering and technology professionals. For a minority some elements are an essential pillar of their practice and that fewer still regularly deploy the most complex forms. I haven’t carried out a systematic study, but I would consider this a reasonable hypotheses based on observing and evaluating many such professionals over the years. This is an academic study of the issue, there may be more? http://eprints.maynoothuniversity.ie/4766/1/PhD%20THESIS%20-%20VOLUME%201-%20Eileen%20Goold.pdf

I am personally no longer fluent in more than basic mathematics. I excelled at 13, went “off the rails” somewhat, but did very well by 18 in ONC which included some calculus (this is an exemplifying qualification for Eng Tech). Continuing to HNC equipped with a newly available scientific calculator, I began to find some of the theory less relevant, since I already seemed to have a better grasp than experienced and successful colleagues.  I had what seemed to be a reliable career ahead of me in O&M in what at the time was considered to be “at the forefront of technology”.  Perhaps in a Design led or R&D focussed environment this might have been different?  

Fast forward ten years and I had progressed (perhaps fortuitously) to lead a department in one of my major national organisation’s technical training establishments, becoming after some downsizing the most responsible person in that area. There were a comprehensive range of competence based standards that governed training and underpinned decisions about “who was competent to do what”.  As much of this infrastructure and expertise was reduced (an excess overhead) some of the standards became adopted as the basis for some National Vocational Qualifications, with skills training (including appropriate underpinning knowledge and understanding) mostly contracted out, either to publicly operated colleges or specialist businesses.

All of what I have described was largely “below the radar” of “more prestigious” academics. Although from 1992 UK Polytechnics, who combined some of the attributes of an advanced college, often with strong engineering teaching capability to graduate and post-graduate level, became “Universities”. Naturally, given the environment they found, some sought to compete with longer established universities for academic prestige and league table position.  This trend has probably exacerbated, in engineering and technology at least, the “academic versus vocational divide”?

As I highlighted in my previous post the “rites of passage” for an academic engineer involve becoming as a teenager an outstanding student of mathematics and maths based science. Being suitably prepared by this, understanding of engineering principles can be gained using the language of complex mathematics as the medium of instruction. Therefore many academic textbooks adopt this approach, rendering themselves effectively inaccessible to someone not fluent in that particular language. If our frame of reference is that; only those demonstrating such mathematical fluency should be defined as “Engineers” then academics can make that choice. However, this renders the overwhelming majority of professional practitioners of engineering and technology “Technologists” or “Technicians”, including many of those who once completed the rite of passage, but haven’t needed most of it since. Unfortunately both they and their employers consider themselves "Engineers" often Chartered Engineers. 

It seems to me perfectly reasonable that those with appropriate aptitude should have academically stretching pathways available to them. "Scientist Eengineers", should rightly be the equals of other forms of scientist and held in the highest esteem. However, this is a discussion about “licensing”, which implies that a regulatory body should permit certain people to do specific things or advertise themselves as competent to do so, whereas others should not be permitted.  The academic frame of reference may be appropriate to some circumstances, but of limited relevance to most. It is debateable whether having completed a “rite of passage” involving complex maths helps to develop desirable attributes. Just like the value of shiny boots, pressed uniforms and foot drill are considered essential to develop a good fighting soldier. Traditions exist and strong opinions may be offered, but to restrain someone’s right to legitimately offer their services as an “engineer”, requires a robust public interest justification and a consensus about “fair play”.  It also seems likely to provide plenty of work for lawyers.            

In the UK, the actions of Engineering Council have created a compromise between academics and practitioners around Chartered Engineer. Those who wish to emphasise the academic element have the masters level benchmark and those who wish to emphasise competence in practice can emphasise the UK-SPEC competences. It seems that in the US some state regulatory commissions organise their own theory examinations, rather than accept university assessments and one UK institution also conducts its own examination.  

A theory test can’t prove competence in practice, although it might contribute useful evidence.  Actual work isn’t artificially structured to fit an academic syllabus, or for that matter neatly divided to fit into a generic competency framework.  What the IET does, is an evolving attempt to provide an holistic approach at an accessible cost, using the expertise of its members given voluntarily.  Other institutions offer their own interpretation of Engineering Council Regulations using the wherewithal that they have.  Therefore, there is significant variability, just like university degrees, but with overarching supervision to maintain minimum standards and some measure of consistency.

Our problem with licensing or even achieving mass voluntary engagement is that most Engineering and Technology work is not carried by, or under the direct supervision of, those who we currently define as Chartered Engineers,who are held in our esteem as “the best”, it is carried out by “the rest”. That includes in appropriate circumstances a craftsperson falling short of our Technician definition and a few scientists at the other end of a spectrum.

Even if those holding Chartered Engineer recognition were suitably qualified and experienced to validate standards of practice, which some are; how would this work in practice? Where something like this does take place, it seems mainly to involve checking and signing off potentially risky designs. In an large organisational context, perhaps acting on behalf of an Executive Director, often an accountant by background, but in many sectors an earlier in career Apprentice/Technician/Engineer who wasn’t valued by PEIs.  

If we were to introduce licensing then we would need to create new infrastructure, perhaps consisting of “industry boards” with a suitably broad range of representatives. Since the current Engineering Council proposition has evolved to serve effectively only  a small fraction of the space, between practically orientated craft work and scientific inquiry.  

I wouldn’t in principle be opposed to something that reaches the places that Engineering Council/Washington Accord doesn’t, but a return on investment case could be difficult to make.  Perhaps UK government attempts to revitalise apprenticeships, engaging employers to create models with graduate and post-graduate level output benchmarks will begin to redress the balance, allowing The IET and others to offer a more attractive proposition for engagement in voluntary regulation? Some changes of attitudes and sensible evolution could reduce the snobbery that is felt by so many to permeate our current system? I’m not talking about those who are barely aware of what the proposition is, or feel that they don’t have a need, but senior and influential people who have been exposed to and thought about these issues.   

I wrote this before seeing Philip’s thoughtful post, perhaps even too thoughtful for mewink but I think that I agree.  

There was a time when all we seemed to get in some of these threads was “knock about” and angry disgruntlement.  smiley 
          
       
 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Jack Lord on Jan 9, 2019 9:17 pm

Whilst I agree the licencing of professional engineers is required I have to say we have been here before. Have look at the Finniston Report and review the IEE Secretary Dr. George Gainsborough's obituary (https://www.electricalreview.co.uk/news-mm/5976-118100) and his valuable contribution in this field. He held public consultations throughout the U.K. and generated a massive amount of support for his proposals. Unfortunately quashed the politics of the time, as referred to an article in Engineering News some time ago.
I once contacted the BBC Today Programme to complain about BT technicians being called engineers as a policy by BT. The Producer of the programme groaned and said "that old chestnut"!

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Jan 10, 2019 1:26 pm

Jack,

First of all, Hats off to George Gainsborough for his achievements!  

It is important that we learn from history, because these issues are not new, they just pass through the generations

“To understand the man you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty.” ( Napoleon Bonaparte).

By coincidence The Finniston Report was published when I was that age and just completing my four year Apprenticeship. It didn’t therefore come to my attention other than in passing, even though I was interested these issues and the affairs of my union EETPU.  This archive from our IET predecessor institution The Production Engineers seems to offer a good summary  https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=4926497

The Head of Department at our Training Centre was CEng MIEE and had explained how he had gained this via night school HNC + 3 endorsements, but that pathway had closed. Having developed ambitions to progress, I made further enquiries (by letter and telephone -remember the days before the internet).  The only viable option of a part-time degree was impractical and the syllabus very poorly aligned with my development needs. A colleague warned me off the CEI/EC exams which he was attempting as apparently they had a very high failure rate. I was interested to find The Institution of Industrial Managers in the article above, because I embarked on their certificate at my local Polytechnic, becoming a member in the process.  
However, despite the opinion that I have heard so many times over the years since from some Chartered Engineers, that “engineering isn’t management”, my HNC was acceptable for Tech Eng/IEng so I joined that institution as well and became IEng some years later. 

I  don’t use my own example for self-indulgence, but for ease of explanation. Many others from an apprenticeship or “imperfect” degree pathway became IEng simply because it was all they could get. Equally those who stayed on for A levels and studied Engineering at University often became entitled to CEng instead.  Although the system placed people into these silos at the age of twenty (ish) for at least the next fifteen years, most employers just promoted high performers. For example, almost the whole of the senior technical leadership team of a world-leading technology business, were former apprentices with HNC. Only in recent years was the IET able to fairly evaluate their obvious CEng capability and reassure them that they would not be “black-balled” on academic grounds. There never was at any time in their careers anything "inferior" about them relative to a university graduate. Some had gained mid-career and part-time degrees as these became more accessible and appropriate to their current needs, such as an industry relevant MSc or MBA.   

It would help my understanding and I’m sure that of others if you were able to explain why you were motivated to complain to the BBC about BT calling “Technicians”, “Engineers”. As it stands I’m with the Producer and wondering whether you live in Tunbridge Wellswink. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgusted_of_Tunbridge_Wells

I have myself argued in several contexts , about inconsistent descriptors, for example within a trade association, about calling one type of “craftsperson” an “engineer” and another an “operative” for no reason except that it was what they preferred wasn’t particularly sensible. My own use of the term “craftsperson” could be controversial but I hope understood here in a positive way. An IET predecessor institution that I was a member of was the “executive engineers”. I don’t know what proportion fitted that description, but in some sectors now “manager” is a first job and “executive” the first promotion. In the public domain all of this easily seems petty, divisive and potentially snobbish.        

As I hope that I have made clear, I wish no disrespect towards any Engineer, Technician or other semantic form of technology practitioner, acting professionally and I offer my admiration to those who have through any valid combination of education and experience gained CEng.  However, I haven’t found a fully reliable, robust and accurate justification for the divisions that we create in the continuum between a craftsperson and a scientist at work; they overlap. What I can observe is a sociological process of “us and them” creating groups or “tribes”.  My tribe is probably in this context, the “ex-engineer moved into management but still likes to get involved”. There are two branches, the dominant one who continue to wear their CEng insignia with pride and the marginalised dying off one who have to take care to avoid negative prejudice in many situations.    

The article I linked from 1980 states “although the IEE calls for generous arrangements to be made for registering the existing stock of engineers, it believes that new engineers should not be automatically registered on completion of their education and training; candidates should also have proven success 'in the field”. For the next nearly thirty years it wouldn’t welcome engineers like those who I mentioned above without them being over the age 35, effectively having to grovel and write some academically orientated technical dissertation “because they were deficient”. Were these “Chief Engineers”, “Heads of Engineering” etc, supposed to call themselves “Technicians”.

What lessons can we learn from 1980 that will put is in a better place in 2020? I hope that those of us who were around then aren’t motivated by personal advantage or status, but by the needs of those who were born this century, both professionals and the wider needs of society. Will those coming into engineering now still be having the same arguments in 40 years’ time as we are now? After all, the leaders in 1979 reflected (according to Napoleon) 1939 attitudes.  Another commission anyone, what did the 1851 version think?     

 
 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Moshe Waserman on Jan 10, 2019 8:32 pm

When I'm looking at some data and debates, for example in Canada one of the provinces was able to keep the industrial exemption a life.
While it eased the burden on the employers, data shows that the number of injuries and deaths at some of the employers who didn't use licensed Engineers went up.
So Public Safety, employee safety is at the heart of the licensing.   
My wife used to work at a facility that requires a specific number of hours and casework to be handled by licensed professionals, the owners had unlicensed well-trained and educated experienced professionals working full time and a visiting Licensed professional (highly paid) on a part-time basis in order to be in compliance with the state regulations.
Seemed like a workable compromise for that particular business.

Moshe W BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Jack Lord on Jan 10, 2019 9:09 pm

Roy,
I wasn't from Tunbridge Wells but now based in Scotland.
I complained about the use of' 'Engineer' by BT as the Today programme featured a call by BT for more recruits which described the role which was obviously aimed at 'Techs'.
The same comment could apply to gas fitters being described as 'engineers! 
As an aside I was a craft apprentice and now a Fellow of the I.Mech.E. and the IEE (I don't use F.I.E.T. as I was elected by the IEE!).
Jack

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Simon Barker on Jan 10, 2019 11:05 pm

Moshe Waserman:
My wife used to work at a facility that requires a specific number of hours and casework to be handled by licensed professionals, the owners had unlicensed well-trained and educated experienced professionals working full time and a visiting Licensed professional (highly paid) on a part-time basis in order to be in compliance with the state regulations.
Seemed like a workable compromise for that particular business.

Moshe W BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET

Sounds like a very good deal for the licenced engineer who was well paid to come in and rubber-stamp work by the people who actually understood what they were doing.
And it's precisely why so many people are against the idea of licencing.
 

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Philip Smith on Jan 11, 2019 8:32 am

This is a reply to Moshe Waserman's submission. Moshe what a beautifully succinct comment which I think sums up the whole issue neatly, thank you. We need a whole range of engineering people with a whole range of practical and academic capabilities that suit the task that they are employed to do. BUT we need 'Engineers' who are able to see a much larger picture, responsible and committed they will complement the abilities of local staff who are highly capable but perhaps limited by their particular employment to a fairly narrow experience - no matter how good they are. Problems are solved by teamwork mainly but often it is the 'Engineer' with wide experience that makes the break through contribution. These engineers need academic training to have the ability to prove their case. Barnes Wallis solved a wide range of problems by his brilliant 'practical' and 'academic' ability besides having that other great engineering talent - perseverance. 

As I have said before we have a great engineering community and I am delighted at the responses from my colleagues. Its a hot topic isn't it!
P R Smith (aka Bob)

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by David McQuiggan on Jan 12, 2019 12:28 am

Is co-existence possible?  It seems to be  in many jurisdictions. The devil, of course, is in the details of the definitions and the wording of the statutes.
Public Engagement
Engineering Services to the public
Individual Accountability & Liability
Not permitted by statute Protected Titles for
“Licensed Engineer”/

“Accredited Engineer”/
“Registered Engineer”
“Chartered Engineer”
Private Employment
/Industry exemption/
Product exemption
Employer Accountability & Liability

Unprotected titles for
“Engineer”
“Certified Engineer”
 
Allowed by statute
  Unregulated Professional
Defined by industry or certified in a specific discipline by 3rd party organisation
Regulated Professional
Legally Defined & Protected
David McQuiggan

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by David McQuiggan on Jan 12, 2019 1:02 am

Hopefully this post is not too tangential, but is regulation by statute and licensure the only option? Could emerging technologies and market forces provide an answer?  Consider these two interesting and thought-provoking papers:
  1. Blockchain Technology: Implications and Opportunities For Professional Engineers  - National Society of Professional Engineers; 2015-2016 FinTech Task Force; July 2016 Daniel R. Robles, P.E., Chairman Keith Beatty, P.E. William Begg, P.E. John Conway, P.E. David D’Amico, P.E., F.NSPE Mark Davy, P.E., F.NSPE, Rick Ensz, P.E. John Evangelisti, P.E. Bart Hogan, P.E. Bradley Layton, Ph.D., P.E. Tom Maheady, P.E., F.NSPE Robert Uddin, P.E. Chad Williams, P.E.
  2. The Revolutionary Blockchain – An Opportunity for Engineering Stewardship American Society of Civil Engineers Grand Challenge Contest Winner; Best Value – IoT, June 2017, Daniel R. Robles , P.E. and Matthew E. Bowers , P.E. ASCE Presentation Video 
Also check out the emergence of cryptographic tokens of value like Quant and platforms like CoEngineers.io  
David McQuiggan

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Philip Oakley on Jan 12, 2019 6:21 pm

David McQuiggan:
Hopefully this post is not too tangential, but is regulation by statute and licensure the only option? Could emerging technologies and market forces provide an answer?  Consider these two interesting and thought-provoking papers:

  1. Blockchain Technology: Implications and Opportunities For Professional Engineers  - National Society of Professional Engineers; 2015-2016 FinTech Task Force; July 2016 Daniel R. Robles, P.E., Chairman Keith Beatty, P.E. William Begg, P.E. John Conway, P.E. David D’Amico, P.E., F.NSPE Mark Davy, P.E., F.NSPE, Rick Ensz, P.E. John Evangelisti, P.E. Bart Hogan, P.E. Bradley Layton, Ph.D., P.E. Tom Maheady, P.E., F.NSPE Robert Uddin, P.E. Chad Williams, P.E.
  2. The Revolutionary Blockchain – An Opportunity for Engineering Stewardship American Society of Civil Engineers Grand Challenge Contest Winner; Best Value – IoT, June 2017, Daniel R. Robles , P.E. and Matthew E. Bowers , P.E. ASCE Presentation Video 
Also check out the emergence of cryptographic tokens of value like Quant and platforms like CoEngineers.io  

 

The articles and their references, and some light reading about the many failed (stolen etc) blockchains I don't think actually solves the problems they state, nor the problems we think we have.

That said, the articles do help give an alternate frame of reference to consider how the various chains/networks of trust are generated and maintained, and the role of the licencing/registration bodies in the maintenance of the infrastructure that supports the trust networks.

The value of the registrations is not at the margins but at the centres of each category. The margin lines are 'half way up a hill', where the value is near the summit. In some cases it can be a broad round summit with indistinct top, and others a sharp peak. It's not reaching the summit that matters, but getting out from the lowlands and getting well past 'half way'.

Often we are arguing about the division line, when we should be discussing how we recognise the summit zone and map the terrain. On that basis the Blockchain, as with most other pure technical solutions, won't solve the engineering trust issue.

And people are (by definition) shallow/stupid in their application of their limited time and brain power relative to the bigger pictures, especially when it comes to critical personal problems (cue lawyers and medics). Good engineering keeps people happy in their ignorance.

Summary: the papers help compare and contrast the perceived hierarchies of the value of engineers/engineering, and how such value is recorded and maintained.

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