Log in to the online community

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in

Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronis...

138 Replies

Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 6, 2018 9:09 pm

This is National Apprenticeship Week.  
An unintended and unfortunate consequence of UK government policies and wider economic changes in the 1980s and 1990s was a very substantial decline in apprenticeships which had served previous generations so well.  They didn’t die completely because employers (like the company that I was Training Manager of) understood their value, not just for skilled craft trades, but also as an alternative option to “Graduate Training Schemes” for Engineers and Managers, traditionally leading to HNC type qualifications, but from the mid-2000s increasingly degrees. Initiative was eventually picked up by Government, turning it into a “flagship” policy.  This has had an effect, but policy is not implementation and typically the brewery visit has not been well organised (with apologies to those unfamiliar with British vulgar slang). However, changes like this can take years if not decades to “bed in”, so I hope that we will keep trying.
Engineering Council has always been dominated by the academic perspective and relatively poorly connected with employers, therefore it has associated Apprenticeships with Technicians and not with Chartered Engineers, although it accepted that it was possible "exceptionally via bridges and ladders” for a Technician to develop into a Chartered Engineer. Incorporated (formerly Technician) Engineer was also drawn from the Apprenticeship tradition. However, once the qualification benchmark was adjusted to bachelors level, it was also intended to become the “mainstream” category for graduates, with CEng being “premium” or “elite”.  Unfortunately the Incorporated category has not been successful and its international equivalent “Technologist” defined as it is by degree content (i.e. less calculus than an “engineer”) also seems equally poorly regarded or even legally restricted in other countries.
Now we have Degree Apprentices coming through, the profession has responded by offering Incorporated Engineer recognition at an early career stage. This should in principal be a good thing and I have advocated it in the past. However, I am seriously concerned that this may also stigmatise them as a “second class” form of professional, as has been the tradition to date.
Over the last few years Engineering Council has adopted a policy encouraging younger engineers to consider the Incorporated Engineer category as a “stepping stone” to Chartered Engineer. Some professional institutions have promoted this often with a particular focus on those “without the right degree for CEng” with some success. However the approach “kicks the can down the road” to the question of how they should subsequently transfer to CEng.  There are potentially likely to be some frustrated, disillusioned and even angry engineers, if they find that “progression” is blocked and that they are stuck on a “stepping stone”.  We don’t need more unnecessary “enemies” amongst them, we have created enough already. 
A further problem is that those with accredited degrees do not expect to require a “stepping stone” and consider IEng to have no value for them or even perhaps at worst insulting. Many employers of Chartered Engineers and the professional institutions are steeped in the tradition of recruiting those with accredited degrees and developing them to Chartered Engineer in around 3-5 years. Other graduate recruiters may be less academically selective, but share similar traditions and expectations.
Is therefore a Degree Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway compared to a CEng accredited (BEng or MEng) full-time undergraduate degree course?  Is performance and current capability (aka “competence”) the appropriate frame of reference for comparison, or should those from each pathway be separated academically and considered to be different “types”, or on “fast” and slow tracks”?
As Degree Apprenticeships develop further, there will be those who gain CEng accredited degrees and have work experience via an “even faster track”. My concern is that those graduates from Degree Apprenticeships who are more competent and productive than their age group peers from full-time degree programmes, but disadvantaged in academic recognition terms, may find themselves in a seemingly unfair and anomalous situation.  
In addition, those employers who primarily “exploit existing technology” may continue to feel that the Engineering Council proposition is contrary to their interests and discourage engagement. Employers who invest in apprenticeships state that they experience greater loyalty from former apprentices, relative to graduate trainees and often a better return on investment.  Whereas the professional institution proposition emphasises different priorities, which may align quite well with Research & Development or Consultancy type business models, but not with Operations and Maintenance or Contracting. My experience as an employer trying to encourage professional engagement was that the Professional Institution concerned advised employees informally to “move on if you want to become Chartered”, because they valued Project Engineering less than Design Engineering. As for management, this was definitely “chartered engineering” if you held the right type of engineering degree and valued if it was “prestigious”. If you didn’t hold the right type of engineering degree and weren’t “highly prestigious” then it wasn't valued much.
If Degree Apprenticeships become more strongly established, do we want to accept them as an equally valid pathway to a range of excellent careers including Chartered Engineer, or do we wish to continue our long-standing policy of treating them as useful but second or third class pathways? Will weasel words of platitude be offered ,whilst existing attitudes and practice are allowed to prevail?    

If the answer is we that want to give apprentices equal value, then in the current climate of retribution, should those who have enthusiastically encouraged the stigma and snobbery against them consider falling on their swords? Enthusiasm for excellence in engineering, especially in stretching academic circumstances is a virtue not a crime and I strongly support it. Unfortunately however many around the Engineering Council family, perhaps motivated by a neediness for “status”, seem to have been mainly concerned with rationing access to the Chartered category by other “graduate level” practitioners, and disparaging those drawn from the apprenticeship tradition. 
Further Reading
‘Stigma against apprenticeships must end,’ says Network Rail boss. Mark Carne, Network’s Rail’s chief executive (Rail Technology News)

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 7, 2018 6:22 am

A well written and thought provoking piece, Roy. I'm with you on this all the way. I feel, as you are suggesting, that we need to put an extra special effort into ensuring that we offset the 'academic snob' factor for C.Eng registration by illustrating and promoting the equal (or possibly greater in some cases) merits of advanced professional engineering qualities that a less academic route can provide. I think there are two distinctly but subtly different components you've mentioned, both of which are very important. The first one is the progression path. As someone who attained C.Eng back in the days of the mature candidate route with my highest engineering qualification being HNC, I am definite testimony to the validity and relevance of this path to C Eng. Whilst I was not in a formal apprenticeship, my carry had started with something very similar with full time engineering work supplemented by day release. In this day and age of further polytechnics being rebadged as universities, if this had been nw, I world surely have attained B.Eng. But that's not the point - the point is that, in my Engineering work, I steadily increased the dominance of those important professional factors of my practice that are, in my view (as a PRI) the true defining ones that put C.Eng at the head of the profession, and evolved all of the qualities required of a C.Eng "on the job". The key factors were not academic - they were practice/application related. Yes, by the very nature of the mature candidate route, I did have to submit a paper you demonstrate my academic ability - and the then President of the Institute, who shared the same specialism as me so ended up in discussion with me about it, commented that it was far more onerous than a degree course as I used a study into traction interference into parallel telecoms cables developed from first principles, using calculus and Fourier analysis to identify harmonic content in earnest, but, in my view, reinforced by my experience as PRI, this was the least important component in demonstrating that I was worthy of C Eng. I am now, and have been for some considerable time, considered a "senior" in the profession, and this all from the lowly roots I describe. We are truly missing a trick if we don't encourage others to take a similar progression. The other distinct component of this argument is the possibly controversial one that many people who have evolved in the way I've described, or through formal apprenticeships, demonstrate the most important qualities required for C.Eng (innovation, professionalism, managerial qualities) more strongly than many (but by no means all) from an academic background. Academic education will rarely, if ever, develop those components of the professional engineer profile and, from my experience, many from an academic background simply don't have that understanding of applying their knowledge to achieving good Engineering outcomes that is inherently learnt by many who go through the apprenticeship (or my approximation to it) route. Cost/safety, cost/value, creativity and innovation are rarely natural products of an academic education. The irony of the focus on R&D and design roles is that most of those in these roles need the wider ranging engineer to draw on their inputs to apply their outputs to a well rounded engineering outcome. I was reminded of this only this week when discussing potential roles for myself with potential clients when more than once commented that a designer or R&D role would be a gross failure to draw on my true value, that it was relatively easy to find design or R&D capability but far harder to find the ability to draw on the input of designers and researchers to produce a well rounded engineering outcome, one that achieves the joint goals of innovation and cost/value balance. In my experience, many of those from an academic background really do see things in black and white, and hold very limited ability to innovate or to achieve the 'right', pragmatic and city effective engineering solution required. Designers often lack innovation whilst researchers often lack realism. I must stress that the are far from universal observations - there are, of course, many from an academic background who go on to be highly innovative, professional engineers well worthy of the C.Eng status and equally, the are many from an apprenticeship or other more hands on route who never progress to a level where C.Eng is awardable, but I agree that we really need to promote the idea that all routes to registration are worthy of consideration. I don't believe that there is any obstacle to this in the assessment and interview process - I feel it allows for this diversity of candidate profiles, but what is needed is to promote and encourage the pursuance of these diverse routes to registration, and the wider recognition that less academic routes are highly worthy of pursuing. With regard to the distinctly separate matter of the attitude to I.Eng and the view that it is a second class status, thus hehe been that has already been the registration,
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 7, 2018 6:57 am

Oops, accidentally posted that before it was finished - my last comment was intended to be that the separate issue of the poor perception of I.Eng as a "second class" status, this has been discussed on here in several different threads and it's challenging you say the least, so I'm not going to attempt to cover it now
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Mar 7, 2018 2:31 pm

Roy * 2,
I fully support what both of you are saying but to my mind the answer to the question is really in the hands of the employers. If employers can see past the graduate bias of the current market then it can be a template for the future, but if their sights are maintained on suitable degrees then I would say perhaps an anachronism. What is needed is perhaps a mixure of leadership and re-education. I am happy that many in IET (though I would currently say probably not all) are willing to accept people for what they are able to do rather than what academic level they have attained (as exemplified by Roy P's post), but this is by no means common across all the PEIs. If those who come through such apprenticeships are encouraged to apply for registration (I would suggest with IET but that may just be personal bias) then perhaps it can be shown to have value and employers will start to take notice (though I am old enough and cynical enough to say I will believe it when I see it).

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by MW _CEng on Mar 7, 2018 3:09 pm

Why not equip the apprentice for better success? Employers have the right to establish hiring criteria for the job candidates.
If the employer prefers a degreed candidate then apprentice trained/educated candidate is out of luck.
As we know its great to achieve CEng but without Washington accord degree for the outside UK or without a degree for the inside UK, there can be a disadvantage over Engineers with academic degrees.
So apprentice based accredited BEng will better equip the graduate for the job market and employability. This is not to say that apprenticeship is not a welcomed and valid needed rout to become a professional. 
Another viable option is competency-based degree programmes.

While traditional programs require students to sit through classes to accumulate credit-hours, the Competency-based format is all about what students know and are able to do. Progress is made by completing assessments or projects that prove they mastered competencies—the skills and knowledge University faculty and industry leaders have identified as essential to the chosen degree.

Apprenticeship can satisfy a significant portion of the degree and produce possibly a better-trained degreed professional who can proudly compete in the job market.
Moshe Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, FEDIPAdvPra, MIET.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Mar 7, 2018 4:01 pm

You are right, but again this is in the hands of the employers - in this case the ones hiring the apprentices and running the scheme. I just copied the following from a company intranet site (and have tried to anonymise it) to show what can be done:

A Project Engineer apprenticeship event was recently held aimed at raising awareness of the apprenticeship programme.

The event included a team building exercise and an overview of the apprenticeship programme, future career and development opportunities from two of the third year apprentices, who presented their experiences and discussed future career aspirations.

The Project Engineer Apprenticeship is a four year programme consisting of work based placements and college away days. On completion, the apprentices will have gained an NVQ Level 3 - Extended Diploma in Engineering and Technical Support and City and Guilds Level 3 - Diploma in Engineering.

As you can see this does not lead to a BEng degree but in principle it could, just as easily. Alternatively potential candidates could then carry on study to progress from the Diploma to a Degree. I would fully agree with your last comment. I would be very happy employing an ex-apprentice (or recommending them for CEng). My problem is where I don't have the final say and am over-ruled by someone who sees a degree candidate through rose tinted spectacles.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Christopher Winder on Mar 7, 2018 5:21 pm

IET accredited schemes currently allow you to apply directly for an EngTech once complete. 
With the right scheme at the right level, why couldn't they allow the apprentice to apply for IEng or even CEng at the end of it.
Apprentices who complete a full bachelors or masters go far above and beyond the students on these courses, that should be recognised.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 7, 2018 8:01 pm

I agree with all of those points Alasdair. As with so many of the problems in engineering, the fundamental problem lies with perception, and of course, when the limited mindsets sit with employers, the impact is even worse than that arising from a more generic public perception, though the two are, of course, related. As for other PEIs, I am somewhat out of touch with their current outlooks, so wouldn't like to comment with any degree of certainty, I suspect you are right, based on experience with them in years gone by and comments from current colleagues in those other disciplines - especially Civil Engineers who are members of the ICE.
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Andy Millar on Mar 8, 2018 2:59 pm

I'm finding this discussion interesting and slightly amusing. When I started my undergraduate apprenticeship in 1978 - I did a thick sandwich - engineering undergrads were desperate to get onto an apprenticeship / sponsorship, as it was commonly thought that the ONLY way you would get CEng from the IEE was through having done an IEE approved apprenticeship in addition to your degree. (I'm not saying this was true, but many employers suggested that this was the case.) I'm sure it was the case the IEE approved degree + IEE approved apprenticeship did give a fast track to CEng. What goes around, comes around.

From a different perspective, my view of the CEng process is that the answer to the original question " Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer?" seems to be yes, for the simple reason that my experience with the CEng application process is that it primarily assesses where applicants are now, irrespective of how they got there. I would start from UKSpec and work backwards - which to me shows that a successful CEng applicant needs a mix of theoretical and "real world" experience. Which could be a degree and an apprenticeship and further experience, or just a degree and further experience, or just an apprenticeship and further experience and learning, or just "on the job" (in its broadest sense) experience and learning.

Of course that's the ideal, real fallible human beings implementing individual cases may cause other things to happen!

I'd be very worried about any suggestion that apprenticeship + appropriate degree automatically equals CEng. Just as I've seen MBA graduates who I wouldn't trust to run a business I was involved in. It is perfectly possible to get through an apprenticeship + degree program and still not be a person who necessarily has the insight etc to sign off a significant innovative engineering project (which is my benchmark for CEng). But, of course having come through such a program will give the assessment panel some confidence that the underlying knowledge and understanding is there, so will give the candidate a bit less to prove.

I think most of the above also applies to IEng.

Back in the days when I worked for a company that had a very active apprenticeship scheme (1993-2003ish) we would regularly encourage our apprentices who showed academic promise to carry on to take a degree, generally (in fact in all the cases I remember) the HND from their apprenticeships exempted them from the first year of their degree. And they tended to do well, some did extremely well, although many did struggle with maths coming that route rather than through the A level route. I can't say how this affected CEng / IEng applications because, like the vast majority of engineers, I don't know that any of them ever applied. (There is one who is in the middle of applying, and has been for about 7 years, I will bully him through it in the end smiley and he will sail through - not because he has apprenticeship + degree but because he is a brilliant engineer!)


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

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Yovindra Pothiah on Mar 9, 2018 5:19 pm

Once a BEng(Hons) attained;and they already work;they should be treated equally;because they are doing there best to reach..

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 9, 2018 7:29 pm

Yovindra, The key point is that it's not even a requirement - and shouldn't be - that a B.Eng is attained. What is required is to demonstrate knowledge and understanding now, at the time of application. It is irrelevant how that K&U is gained. There are many ways to gain K&U - potentially, it could be without any formal education at all, it could be fun self study or on the job learning or both. That's how it should be as everyone has a different best way of learning. Conversely, it's possible that someone could have obtained a B.Eng and done an apprenticeship and still not have gained the requisite level of K&U. We know that B.Eng alone, not supplemented by additional K&U, does not, of itself, achieve the requisite level of K&U, and just spending time on an apprenticeship is not guaranteed to add the extra K&U to meet the requirements, so it's right that what you describe does not automatically fulfill the requirements. So the right approach is to assess the K&U at time of application, without reference to how it has been attained and, if it meets the requirements, that's the K&U tick in the box. You still have to demonstrate how you apply it, and the remaining UK SPEC requirements before you get the registration. The only thing that M.Eng from an accredited institution does is remove the need to provide further evidence of K&U and so make the application easier. That is because the qualification has been pre-assessed to only be attainable by somebody who holds the required level of K&U
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by MW _CEng on Mar 9, 2018 9:26 pm

The issue with this approach is that as important the registration is, a lot of times degree is required to get a job.
The apprentice without the degree applying for employment will be in my opinion in disadvantage against other competent and knowledgeable applicants who also have a degree.
Best way to serve the apprenticeship rout professional is to make them academically qualified on the same level as university graduates.
A lot of times the candidate is competing against experienced professionals,  who maybe didn't have an apprenticeship in their formation as an engineer but do have work experience after graduating from the university.

Moshe M Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET

Moshe Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, FEDIPAdvPra, MIET.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 9, 2018 11:20 pm

That's not my experience Moshe. I have been Technical Director and Professional Head in two well renowned International Engineering Consultancies, a member of the International Professional Board (the board responsible for professional practice) of one of those and am now in high demand as an independent engineering consultant in my specialist field, generally regarded as one of the most senior in my field. I don't have an engineering degree. And that's not only because I'm now one of the oldest practicing engineers in my field - my first Professional Head position was when I was 47. And given I know you regularly make the point about difference in acceptance within the UK as against the rest of the world, I'd point out that I was head of the 750 strong Middle East Division of one of those engineering consultancies for 3 years (before ill health caused a hiatus in my career). The perception you describe is exactly what we need to fight to overcome, and I'm glad to say that the IET is championing that cause. That is precisely the point several of us here are trying to make - the Institute and it's Registration process provides the path for all who hold the knowledge and understanding, together with the Professional standards and ability to apply their engineering ability to innovate and benefit the community, to achieve senior engineering status. The battle we need to win is against the very academic prejudice you describe. As so many have pointed out, simply getting a degree does not, of itself, make a good professional engineer. Let's not quote such prejudice as a reason to roll over and give into it. Let's join battle to change those attitudes
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by mbirdi on Mar 9, 2018 11:43 pm

The thing that I'm picking up in this - and previous - thread is the different messages that are given off by representatives of the IET when it comes to CEng registration. On the one hand, youngsters at school are being encourage to take up STEM subjects, to becoming an Engineer as an exciting career; on the other hand, mature and experience Engineers are being told that a degree and apprentiship followed by experience aren't necessarily sufficient to achieving CEng status; leaving millions - according to some EC report - of engineers not even bothering to take up registration. Now if children are discouraged from pursuing academic studies by their teachers, that could be seen as holding children back from achieving their full potential; when an employer discourages a qualified and experienced employee by suggesting they're not good enough for promotion, that could be interpreted as discrimination; in the sporting world, competitors put each other down to gain some sort of a mental advantage over each other; in championship boxing, it's referred to as 'trashtalk mind games'; in the financial world, miss selling products such as PPI is considered a scam. Those CEngs giving what they believe are mature interptetation of the UKSpec - and from their personal experiences of what it takes to be a CEng to both children and adult engineers, need to be aware that they're sitting on a fine fence of giving what they believe is an honest advice, and a selling a scam.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by MW _CEng on Mar 10, 2018 12:19 am

Roy, I respect your opinion and experience. 
In my opinion, there are many anecdotal success stories and yours is definitely a positive one, I know successful engineers who achieved highest levels and never had more than a technician certificate. Yet these are not the norm and more than that and being in hiring decisions in the past I can say these are the exceptions.
In my humble opinion, the independent engineering consultant no degree vs independent engineering consultant with a degree are not treated as equals when it comes to competing for jobs. 
Today's candidate's CV may not even get to the hiring managers review if it failed the screening process and a lot of times not having the right degree sends the CV to a secondary folder.
Giving other candidates are as competent and experienced as the nondegreed one. So we compare Engineers who demonstrate achievement and other qualities but also hold a degree, especially if the degree is from name recognized university.
I didn't have a study on this but from observations, I will never forget an eye-opening situation, when we had an opening for an Engineer.
The first week we got 200 CV's then and the week after even more, CV's of applicants who didn't have a degree in the required discipline or comparable one didn't get into the first batch of CV's that hiring manager and the team reviewed. 
Highly capable and experienced candidates competed against highly capable and experienced candidates, the difference was formal academic education.

If I had a child who wanted to enter Engineering profession I would want him/her to have a good education from name recognized school and good training and chances to be employable. I would support apprenticeship rout if it led to a respectful academic degree. 
Just my opinion and I respect what others.

Moshe Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, FEDIPAdvPra, MIET.

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 10, 2018 7:40 am

Moshe and Mahmood, I can answer you both with much the same response. I agree with both of you. Except the very last part of Mshmood's post. There's no scam. The point that we're all agreeing violently on is that the problem is employers' attitudes in placing degrees - which do not, of themselves, a professional engineer make - as their selection criteria, rather than the whole consideration of a well-rounded professional, regardless of what has brought that professional to that position. I'll tell one more anecdote. I briefly mentioned my time in the Middle East. When I started building the business, I talked to "informed clients" - senior representatives of the client who all proudly proclaimed the 'Doctor' in their title and expected that it would precede their name, even when referring to them by first name in informal, friendly conversation. They had all obtained their qualifications in the USA. They were amongst the strongest believers in academic snobbery I have ever encountered. I presented them with some of the world's leading engineers, specialists in their field - my company had the recruiting power to do that - and they immediately looked at academic qualifications, which were not always what they were used to seeing - they even had difficulty with C.Eng or Eur.Eng, focusing totally on degrees and the US Registered Engineer status, utterly unaware that the latter if utterly inconsistent, varying from state to state, and is far less demanding, generally, than C.Eng. I pushed on, spending time to educate them, showing them International acclaim for the C.Eng Gold Standard, walking them through illustrations of how superior the requirements are to those of most States Reg. Eng requirements and most degrees, showing them the profile of individuals' being offered - people who had been responsible engineers on huge, prestigious engineering projects, Internationally - and gradually brought them round to realising that, by widening their views, they would get the best the world has to offer. Eventually, they eased back into trusting our selection criteria, criteria mostly unrelated to academia, but focused on evidence of professional competence and achievements. This is the challenge, the task, I think most of us on this thread are saying needs to be met by both the IET as a whole and us as individuals - the IET recognises it in both the Registration process and it's overall support to members. The uphill battle - but one not to shy away from - is to bring employers round to that way of thinking, and that is for both the IET, and individuals - especially those who can claim to be senior professionals - Fellows, etc. - to take on. I believe it is one of the biggest responsibilities of Fellows. On the positive, I don't believe that what you both describe is as universal as you perceive - I've encountered many employers, and client organisations who have moved into a more enlightened position. Reference was made in an earlier post to other PEIs, and I commented on my experience with the ICE - not recent and probably not the only PEI of which it's true - that suggested they may not be as open minded on this as the IET. I think it may be no coincidence that the heftiest resistance to this viewpoint, in my experience, tends to be from those recruiters from a Civil Engineering background. Ironic that, when I talk to Civil Engineering colleagues, they are the ones that most often perceive their subs to their Institute as delivering them no value and as being no more than entry fees to practice their profession. So, as well as tackling employers, maybe the IET needs a renewed attack on persuading its fellow PEIs to become more enlightened?
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Andy Millar on Mar 12, 2018 12:04 pm

I only have time for a quick comment at the moment, but just to add: About 15 years ago I was very seriously job hunting. I had 20 years VERY successful postgraduate R&D and management experience in two very different, and very "high end" industries. (And I had CEng.) I really struggled to get through recruitment agencies' and HR departments' CV sifting processes because I only had a third class BEng. I don't see any evidence that this situation has changed, with so many UK engineering graduates around recruiters believe they can afford to draw this arbitrary line under not just degrees, but 2.1 degrees. And then employers (who are sometimes complicit, or sometimes don't see this filtering) complain that they're not getting enough applicants...

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

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Andy Millar on Mar 12, 2018 2:18 pm

Mehmood Birdi:
Those CEngs giving what they believe are mature interptetation of the UKSpec - and from their personal experiences of what it takes to be a CEng to both children and adult engineers, need to be aware that they're sitting on a fine fence of giving what they believe is an honest advice, and a selling a scam.

I typed a long reply but the forum system lost it, so as I must get back to work I've only time for a short reply:
  1. As UK Spec stands not all engineers can be CEng. Which, as I've explained extensively, is really useful as one small part of a justification for those who can personally sign off major projects. 
  2. It's not a "scam" to say that not everyone entering a profession will end up in the same position. Telling every new recruit to the army that they were all going to end up as generals would be a scam.
  3. You can have an exciting and fulfilling career in engineering without being CEng. 99% of the profession does. (Actually I made that percentage up, but it's probably not far off.)
  4. If anyone out there is telling all school children that if they become an engineer then they will automatically become CEng then they need to stop. I have never heard anyone say this, if I did I would immediately contradict them.
  5. You know all this already. We've had many good conversations over very many years now, and so I'm a bit surprised and  - to be honest - hacked off with this post. You know very well that I go to far to the other extreme sometimes (i.e. boring people to death with my long explanations) to rigourously avoid "scamming" or in any way misleading anyone. Whether on these forums or in my voluntary work in schools.
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Andy Millar on Mar 12, 2018 3:04 pm

One more point I forgot to add back in: When I do talk to school children about professional registration (which I very very rarely do) I always mention all three grades: EngTech, IEng and CEng. I never discuss them much, just mention they are there, and that for certain areas of engineering the student may want to find out more about them as they go through their training and higher level education. Much more commonly I will discuss different pathways into engineering, mainly apprenticeship or degree, which at that age they are - quite rightly in my view - far more interested in. One of the really great things about this profession is that there are so many ways in. As I think we've all agreed above, it's very frustrating (when you're on the job applicant side) that some employers still don't appreciate this - on the other hand, those that are the more open minded get the better choice of staff.


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

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by mbirdi on Mar 12, 2018 3:48 pm

Appreciate your balanced reply Andy. Scam is too strong a word, an really only applies where financial gain is the objective. There is no evidence of financial gain when it comes to PEIs and the EC. However, there are bits that I'm uncomfortable with; things like there being the largest concentration of CEngs lecturers in universities and colleges, and of course IEE/IET made big advertising on its website encouraging accredited engineering teachers to apply for CEng registration. Now teachers and lecturers don't sign off design work. So why are they exempt compared to engineers working in industry. We had two examples on IET discussion forums where a Substation design engineer and Nuclear decommissio engineer had their CEng application rejected. Seems one rule for teachers and another rule for engineers - working in safety critical roles. It has to be appreciated that IET accredited MEng graduates invest around £140k on their education - £60k in education and cost of living, and £80k in loss of earnings over 4 years (20k starting salary). You give good balanced advice to studenrs, but I'm not convinced that other IET reps do!

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Stewart Russell on Mar 12, 2018 7:01 pm

This is an interesting thread and I have been thinking about this for a while.

i originally left school at 16 and joined the army and did my apprenticeship (NVQ level 3 in providing a communications service), after 7 years of installing, fixing and maintaining telephone systems, fibre optic & data cabling, cable containment etc. I left and did my electrician training. A further 5 years ‘in trade’ and I achieved my EngTech.

At the time I was really happy with my achievement, but there where a few at work who encouraged me to look at IEng, and after discussions with a PRA (if my memory is right I think it was Roy) I decided to complete a FdEng in Electrical Engineering. I new that this wasn’t fully IEng accredited, and would have to do a top-up to a BEng(hons) Professional Engineering (power systems) degree which is fully IEng accredited and partial CEng (I assume the main thing it does not meet is competence A1, we states postgraduate). I am now on my last module and dissertation, and have started to draft my evidence for IEng and expect to apply by the end of the year.

my main surprise was I can not upgrade my TMIET membership to MIET untiI graduate, despite the FdEng (240 credits) & the four modules I have already passed on the BEng (80 credits). Which together are over the 300 credits for an ordinary BEng degree.

i am already looking at postgraduate courses (particularly MBA) to do in the future so I can meet competence A1 for CEng.

i think it’s important for everyone to realise there are THREE separate levels who each have different roles/skills.someone in the IET recently gave a good presentation in my local area regarding professional registration and described them simply as:-

EngTech = the fixers, those ‘on the tools’
IEng = the now, managers / designers  etc.
CEng = the future, innovators 


Stewart Russell FdEng EngTech TMIET TechIOSH

Stewart Russell BEng(hons) EngTech TMIET TechIOSH

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 12, 2018 7:28 pm

Yes, I agree Andy, I think that pinpoints the whole divide on this issue between a process that is both inclusive (taking education level as an additional inclusivity factor to those formally defined by legislation) yet rigorous against the unreasoned and arbitrary selection criteria of employers influenced by HR departments who ignore the bedding tenets of good selection criteria - only using those that are really needed for the job role. This is where the work is required, and as with so much relating to our profession, it's a constant uphill battle - but one worth mounting - to adjust perceptions and expectations among those who are not directly part of our profession - and as you say, in many cases, those who are and should know better, who take the path of least resistance. When I was operating as a professional discipline head, I regularly took HR head on in insisting it was not for them to define professional standards of engineering personnel, it was for professional heads. Unfortunately, as I have found in other respects, it's a very easy screen to hide behind to say that it's "not my choice, it's HR policy". Ultimately, it seems to me that we have one main front of activity to engage with both for this particular reason and for adjusting the wider perceptions of our profession and the effect they have in attracting new entrants you the profession - employers. We have to engage with them full on to adjust perceptions and prejudices.
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 12, 2018 7:30 pm

Right on all points Andy!
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 12, 2018 7:32 pm

In case you're getting confused, this is my response to your third "bite" at replying Andy. I think what you say is exactly the right way to deal with children/youth. Employers though? A totally different kettle of fish!
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Pemberton on Mar 12, 2018 7:35 pm

That seems a very good point, well made, Memood.
Roy Pemberton C.Eng FIET

Re: Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 12, 2018 8:15 pm

Clearly in our small circle of enthusiastic contributors a good technical Apprenticeship is valued rather than stigmatised and is considered a viable pathway to CEng.  However, it is also clear that from a broader sociological perspective “a professional” is taken to mean of “graduate standard” and the UK designation “Chartered” in use by many different professions, adopts this this benchmark. Part of the problem is that for the overwhelming majority of people, education systems select and stream them onto various pathways ending at the age of approximately 18-23. It becomes of limited relevance to most of them thereafter.
Within a generation university attendance has increased hugely. We should remember that the generation of engineers who came through in the 1960s and arguably “built the modern world”, in the UK at least, mostly left full-time education by the age of 16 and followed apprenticeships. University participation was less than 10% until the late 1980s only passing 15% in the early 90s. There is no reliable evidence to my knowledge that the performance of the latest generations has “improved”. Although clearly there is a “standing on shoulders” effect.
The “employment problem” shared by employers and by engineering graduates is partly supply and demand, but also skills mismatch. https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/over-qualification-and-skills-mismatch-graduate-labour-market_tcm18-10231.pdf  (The report isn’t focussed on engineering as such).

Blue-chip employers who recruit graduates can be very choosy, often just seeking the “cream of potential”.  Some have also switched investment towards degree apprenticeships. Often hundreds of applicants are chasing a few  training positions, so many good engineering graduates are left disappointed and frustrated. Smaller employers with less wherewithal, naturally prefer someone “job ready” if possible, or they may be reluctant to train a graduate “only to lose them”. Having invested time money and personal commitment these graduates probably deserve even more of our support than an apprentice, who may suffer some snobbery but at least has a job and career. Just like I became an apprentice because I didn’t know anyone who had been to university, the reverse applies to many of today’s engineering students who might have considered an apprenticeship if they had the option.
On the employers side, I am critical of lazy (and in Andy’s example plain stupid) assumptions made by recruiters/HR professionals, sometimes encouraged by influential members of our own community. I’m also unsympathetic to many of those who bemoan a lack of suitable talent, without investing in training. However, on the whole employers will act rationally based on their interests, as likewise will Universities but with different priorities, driving a different business model.       
I’m happy to accept Roy Pemberton’s comparisons based on his experience, which is more relevant than mine to the CEng category.  Andy Millar similarly, to paraphrase (I hope fairly?) it is ultimately “performance that matters not how you get there”. I agree with much of this, but a significant reason for the discussion, is comparison and categorisation of different engineers. Much of what has occupied the IET Registration & Standards Community over recent years has been interpreting UK-SPEC in the context of experienced professionals (average age 35-50), which is when those who didn’t get on the “golden pathway” at an early stage, start to become interested, often becoming aware for the first time that CEng might be a possibility having previously believed that not having “the right degree” was a “show stopper”.              
As I see it the professional engineering community (including PEI’s, Engineering Council, Engineering UK, Royal Academy etc.) has a duty to encourage and to value (aka “nurture”) those who pursue careers in Engineering & Technology. The most relevant age range is around 13-23 when career pathways are being established. Therefore it is this age group that I want us to focus on. 

As a matter of wider social policy, I would see it as a huge waste of talent, energy and national productivity not to have people in their early twenties pursuing careers. In the UK we have benefited considerably from overseas engineering graduates, unable to find suitable employment in their home countries, with graduate unemployment being especially pernicious in some places.  This has perhaps helped to obscure the gap created by the decline in apprenticeships and underlying assumption that they would be “replaced” by full-time undergraduate degrees.
Where I consider the “leadership” of the profession to be culpable, is that it has seemed far too “comfortable” with anything  that might lead to “higher status for engineers” (like themselves) and largely disinterested in the “sharp end” of mainstream practice by most Engineers and Technicians (mere “foot soldiers”).
There has to be a clear positive proposition to those interested in engineering and technology. With clarity, support and guidance for those pursuing professional careers from an early stage. Instead what we have is a muddled, flawed and often negative proposition to many of them.  We raise the expectations of many undergraduate engineering students unrealistically, before inevitably disappointing quite a few. We insult the graduates of “IEng” or “Technologist” degrees as “second class”, even if the academic standard is the same, because in our eyes, mathematics is more valuable than “applications”(robots are also good at mathematics).  We subject Apprentices, Technicians or Incorporated Engineers (often drawn from the apprenticeship tradition) to snobbery and barriers, either explicit or implicit.
Turning this around isn’t a “five minute job” it’s a ten year one.  There has been some modest progress with IET at least trying, boosted perhaps by government apparently being committed to revitalising apprenticeships that include a higher education element.  I think that we need to build a fresh consensus, with a stronger perspective from employers and those universities drawn from the “polytechnic tradition” of building academic understanding around work practices.  For example I met an Apprentice last year following this innovative programme that I hope becomes successful.  http://courses.wlv.ac.uk/course.asp?code=MA001U31UVD  (we had another thread about this subject but it was locked following some disruptive contributions).  I have also enthusiastically supported this initiative  http://www.engineeringgateways.co.uk/  which hasn’t grown beyond a “niche”.  
My argument isn’t an “anti-academic” one. We are fortunate to possess some world-class research led universities and a substantial amounts of high quality academic provision in Engineering and Technology disciplines.  Unfortunately the competition for prestige that helps to drive academic excellence, has a potentially negative effect of the perfectly competent but less prestigious “mainstream” of practice. What we need is an attractive achievable terminal threshold for developing engineers to aim for.
This leads me to the perhaps unpopular conclusion that achieving the current UK-SPEC CEng standard is often more difficult to demonstrate than it needs to be. Some of a more academic persuasion want to exclude those without a “Washington Accord” degree, whilst some senior professionals want to interpret some of the competences in a more demanding or “difficult” way. Therefore, we have a confusing and inconsistent situation depending on how and where you touch the system. Mehmood suggests one type of inconsistency, but there are others including between PEI's towards similar individuals. For example there is recent evidence of the IET being found more "difficult" than another institution where direct comparison is possible.  “You’ll find out when you get there” isn’t very helpful to those classed as “individual route”. Albeit that the process of professional peer review is a good one.     
On the basis that the idea of a distinctively different “Chartered Engineering Technologist” *, has never made any progress in the UK, I think that we should consider replacing it, with a category of "mainstream" Engineer, benchmarked at “graduate level” taking into account appropriate work-based learning. Anyone seeking further recognition should have to undertake a significant period of monitored professional development first. However, I would envisage if that progression was to Chartered Engineer, a far higher proportion of engineers would progress smoothly into it, than is currently the case, with a good apprenticeship offering no significant disadvantage.  Anything being rationed to only a small percentage of engineers should sit beyond Chartered, if such a category is deemed necessary at all.                 
* The original specification for UK-SPEC envisaged Chartered Engineering Technologist as a
new title for Incorporated Engineers. Ramsay Andrew : The History of The Incorporated Engineer: Engineering Council December 2011.     


Log in

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in