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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 Arran Cameron on Jan 30, 2019 3:24 pm

Roy Bowdler:
It seems that no one has chosen to pick up on David’s angle, so I’m going to return to Jack’s complaint to the BBC “about BT misusing the term engineer”.  This became particularly topical when I saw this article in our own publication this morning  https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2019/01/openreach-hiring-3-000-new-trainee-engineers-to-boost-full-fibre-rollout/  Naturally this led me to explore a little further which took me to this https://www.btplc.com/Careercentre/careersatbt/openreach/Engineers/index.htm

Were the folk who worked on Strowger telephone exchanges commonly referred to as engineers?

How do software engineers fit into the big picture?

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Simon Barker on Jan 30, 2019 4:50 pm

Jack Lord:
Twelve month's training to become a BT "Engineer". It doesn't bear thinking about!
As I previously found when I pointed out the anomaly the response was "that old chestnut". It really is an uphill struggle which I despair of ever winning.

 
The problem is that some people think that "engineer" is a qualification, and not a generic job description.  Whereas the general population of the UK thinks otherwise.

Someone who puts up buildings is a builder.  Someone who sells flowers is a florist.  Somebody who fixes things that go wrong is an engineer, unless those things are big and oily, in which case they are a mechanic.  None of those generic job descriptions says anything about what qualifications the person has.

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Jack Lord on Jan 30, 2019 5:05 pm

I consider BT and British Gas "engineers" are technicians, not engineers..

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Philip Smith on Jan 30, 2019 5:24 pm

In answer to 'Jack Lord' - You have my concurrence.
P R Smith (aka Bob)

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Jan 31, 2019 8:35 am

Jack Lord:
I consider BT and British Gas "engineers" are technicians, not engineers..

Whilst I don't necessarily disagree with this, there are problems. What is the definition of an 'Engineer'? If it is someone who is registered CEng, then that is easy, but is someone who is in the process of applying and who subsequently succeeds not an engineer until he/she is granted CEng? Then what about those accumulating experience to apply? And don't forget some can gain CEng by the alternative route and not have the exemplifying qualifications.
Until we (and I am talking here about the whole of the UK) come up with a legal definition of and Engineer, understood and accepted by the general populace, we are going to be stuck with this problem.
Alasdair

Re: Time for licenced Engineers?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Jan 31, 2019 11:19 am

I recall a conversation that I had with a senior IEE representative circa 25 years ago, during which he airily dismissed what most “engineers” in my (major) organisation did, as “just technician work”.  I have encountered similar variations on this theme many times since, from other members of the Engineering Council fraternity.

Clearly therefore, there is a strand of opinion amongst Chartered Engineers, some academics and others that the term “Engineer” should be restricted only to those with accredited engineering degrees and that “Chartered Engineer” should represent only the most highly developed of those with certain specific characteristics, such as high rank.  Around 40 years ago when the great majority of those employed by major organisations as “engineers”, but without an accredited degree, could if they chose to, be recognised by the Council of Engineering Institutions as a “Technician Engineer”, that group argued that they were “Engineers” not “Technicians” and “Incorporated Engineer” was the result.  

In the professional institution world where we are conducting this debate, recognition for a “technician” has the lowest academic benchmark and therefore the lowest status. However, there is a whole world of skilled engineering practice where being a skilled “technician” is the pinnacle of achievement.  For sociological reasons this much larger group has tended to find its collective voice through the trades unions and employer led trade associations rather than “learned societies”.  Why should governments favour the ageing and declining minority of senior learned society members, who often seem more interested in relative status than productivity, over skilled workers and their employers?

Sociological change over the last 40 years has led to a major decline in trades union influence and over the last 25 years university participation has expanded rapidly.  One consequence for those who wish to position Chartered Engineer as an “elite” form of recognition, is that it is no longer naturally rationed by admission to an engineering degree as a teenager.

The academic response to this (exemplified by the International Engineering Alliance) has been to create “Technologist”, a form of degree level engineer, differentiated by a greater focus on “applications” rather than “science”. The UK response was to extend the length of it exemplifying degree courses, which in our context means “masters level”. So we are now locked into squabbles between ourselves and also with other countries about, how to differentiate between a Technician, Technologist and Engineer, how long degrees should be in preparation for such roles, how much calculus is needed to differentiate an Engineer and Technologist, what is bachelors and masters level,  what is or isn’t “innovative” or more recently perhaps “complex” or “risky”. What do we mean by competence, how do we measure it, and should we re-check it? Is CEng intended to be a “qualification”, “award” , “an alumni", "an honorific title”, an “indication of capability”, or a “supervised registered professional”?

The answer is probably all of these, but to lose any of the “benefits”, could seriously undermine the viability of the current UK voluntary system. Its replacement with some form a statutory authority may be the aim of some who argue for licensing, but be careful what you wish for. Why should I as a taxpayer pay for what charities seem to already be doing?  The fact that the majority of competent practitioners of good conduct, don’t choose to join professional bodies doesn’t seem to be causing much harm?

I would prefer that we accept the challenge of leadership, which as I see it, is to make a compelling case to those current and prospective professional Engineers and Technicians who wish to commit to professional standards. Our focus on creating divisions within this group, sometimes quite artificial, based on no more robust justification than opinions about, "us and them" of a sociological nature, which type of equations were covered in their teenage mathematics classes, or until recently forms of dress like neck ties, doesn't take us forward in the 21st century.  I don't object to useful divisions which embody the "different but equally valuable" principle. There are after all, many thousands of variations in the competences and characteristics illustrated by those who practice "engineering and technology".         

Some examples of codifying work by the “majority”.  https://www.jib.org.uk/documents/publications/20-jib377r.pdf   https://www.thebesa.com/media/1351/besanational-agreement-handbook.pdf  . Given the North American contribution to this discussion https://study.com/articles/difference_between_electrician_electrical_technician.html   https://business.phila.gov/media/Engineer-License-Boiler-Stationary-and-Refrigeration.pdf

 

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