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Is an Apprenticeship an equally valid pathway to Chartered Engineer - a historical anachronism or the future?
Roy Bowdler 603091
Joined 25/07/2008 - 807 Posts
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
 
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/a-new-apprenticeship-programme-kicks-off-national-apprenticeship-week-2018
 
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-law-will-end-outdated-snobbery-towards-apprenticeships
 
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/further-education/12193128/Theres-been-an-apprenticeship-stigma-for-far-too-long.html
 
http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/theres-still-a-stigma-around-apprenticeships-people-look-down-on-you-3622353-Oct2017/
 
https://www.fenews.co.uk/featured-article/14816-overcoming-the-apprenticeships-stigma-not-before-time
 
https://www.bcselectrics.co.uk/news/pushing-back-against-stigma-apprenticeships
 
‘Stigma against apprenticeships must end,’ says Network Rail boss. Mark Carne, Network’s Rail’s chief executive (Rail Technology News)
   
https://www.standard.co.uk/tech/national-apprenticeship-week-young-women-stem-apprenticeship-a3781606.html
 
http://www.aston.ac.uk/news/releases/2017/july/uks-first-degree-apprentices-graduate/
 
https://www.stem.org.uk/news-and-views/opinions/apprenticeships-better-skills-better-careers          
 
http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/blog/Pages/Why-I-chose-the-degree-apprenticeship-route.aspx               
 
 
 
 
138 Replies
Andy Millar 33788107
Joined 28/05/2002 - 1672 Posts

Alasdair Anderson:

... I feel if someone has the ability to be CEng, they will get there whether they have got a PhD or an HNC.
Absolutely - let's carve that in stone on the front page of this website!!
Alasdair Anderson 11001195585
Joined 02/02/2017 - 952 Posts

Andy Millar:
Different roles suit different people (and at different times in their career) and vice versa. 

I think that this sums it up. With regard to the title of this thread, I have had a few swings in my views of the value of an apprenticeship over the years (at times feeling it is more valuable than a degree) but the final conclusion I have come to is that it is really just a different route to get where you are going. Where you end up (CEng, IEng or EngTech - or even not bothering to register) depends on the person, not the route. I feel if someone has the ability to be CEng, they will get there whether they have got a PhD or an HNC.
I have recently been working on a ;project which has both a current apprentice and an es-apprentice. The current apprentice is already working at a level that demonstrates most of the CEng competences, while the ex-apprentice may struggle to demonstrate IEng. This is more to do with the people rather than how they have got where they are.
Alasdair
Andy Millar 33788107
Joined 28/05/2002 - 1672 Posts

James Walker:
Why do we have to have two categories of Engineer? The Surveyors, Lawyers and Accountants don't have multiple categories like us.

Lawyers most definitely have categories and categories! And Accountants have Chartered and Certified.
My take on this tends reflect back on my day job as an independent safety assessor. The example I've used before (probably further up in this thread!) is that I'd ideally like to see that an EngTech signed off the test report (because they know how to use the equipment properly, and know how to act professionally in recording the results). Which was to a test plan produced by an IEng (who understands the standards). But the whole novel system, which will kill hundreds of  people if it goes wrong, has been signed off by a CEng. 

But I really don't care how they got to where they are!

Different roles suit different people (and at different times in their career) and vice versa. And the whole point of professional registration is to provide third party accreditation so that others (employers, clients, assessors like me) have some clue as to where that person fits in. So the more levels the better, but realistically three is probably a) good enough b) as much as is feasible!

Cheers,

Andy

Andy Millar 33788107
Joined 28/05/2002 - 1672 Posts
I'd disagree, because I come across many engineers who are more or less full time project managers which IEng suits perfectly. It is very common that at some point in their late 20s (say) that graduate engineers have to make the choice as to whether to stay in poverty on the interesting technical side, or take the money and become full time project managers (I'm only half joking there). For me this has always been one of the logical valuable roles for IEng, to recognise those who could not be managing what they're managing without that technical background, but are not actually taking senior technical responsibility.

It's reflecting the modern matrix management world where the technical authority and the management authority will typically be in two (at least) different people.

And incidentally nicely makes garbage of the claim that "CEng is elitist", since these IEngs will tend to rise much higher in the organisation than the CEngs! And jolly good luck to them.

But I do agree that the other valuable area of IEng is recognising those technicians who have moved on from doing what they've been trained to do really well, to actually find ways they can improve their organisations and do the work better.

The big challenge is that, outside of the military, there doesn't seem to be any big drive from industry to ask for third party accreditation of any level apart from those who hold final technical signatory responsibility. So I see the problem as being less about what IEng is, more about whether it's of any value to industry.

Cheers,

Andy 
Peter Miller 90166835
Joined 09/01/2007 - 534 Posts
Maybe IEng should revert back to being called technician engineer. The award is now routinely aligned with the completion of a degree apprenticeship so in reality the majority of new registrants will be undertaking technician tasks. 
James Walker 62455
Joined 14/01/2008 - 21 Posts
Hi - In answer to the first part of the question an Apprenticeship used to be the term used for training of school leavers towards being a tradesman in whatever trade - Electrician, Plumber, Carpenter/Joiner, Plasterer, Bricklayer etc etc. As a grumpy old engineer I started way back in 1964 to embark on what should have been a five year apprenticeship in the construction industry but four years in and due to a chronic shortage of tradesmen (it is nothing new) I was was asked to take my "ticket" and become a Sparky - not a difficult question the pay rise was enough. After one winter on the Didcot Power Station - the coldest on record I vowed I would not work outside again and went back to "Night School" to get the bit of paper to get me off the tools.

I joined Local Government in 1974 and was told to get registered ASAP but I hadn't been to university so the IEE was closed to me having pulled up the ladder if you didn't have a degree. So I registered as a "Technician Engineer" in 1979 and was elected as a Fellow in 1991 in the IEEIE. There was no chance of ever getting Chartered because I was working full time and a half had a family etc. There was no time to prepare a dissertation which was a little known route at the time. 

Then the IET arrived and over the last few years of volunteering and watching the rules change I now realise that I could and maybe should have applied to that lofty status of CEng. So in simple terms if you plan your career right it should be very possible to get registered as a Chartered Engineer. But remember as we stand at the moment Incorporated Engineer is an alternative and not really a stepping stone despite what the policy of the EC and others will tell you. Why do we have to have two categories of Engineer? The Surveyors, Lawyers and Accountants don't have multiple categories like us.

One of the main issues of the term Apprentice is that it is no longer what it was; now everybody has apprenticeships in every industry and profession - it is not a good word for training folk but the politicians have hooked on to it so we have play along - it has allowed levies and grants etc to be directed to whoever screams loudest, with industry screaming at Government that they are short of skilled workers - it is simple - if you want a Sparky - train someone - if they are able, train them through to more complex roles as Engineers; the same applies to all sectors of employment - if you need someone with a skill - train them. It is not the prime purpose of education to turn out skilled workers at any level.

There I've got that off my chest - for what good it might do!

Regards James Walker IEng FIET
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts

National Apprenticeship Week.

'Apprenticeship models are flourishing

  • ICE Vice President for Regions, Emer Murnaghan, explains how reforms to apprenticeship provision are now bearing fruit across the UK.
    Find out more

Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts
I would agree with your final assertion, Roy, since it is in full cohesion with the following axiom :
Theory + Practice = Professional Proficiency
( and this because the only Practice without a theoretical background is BLIND and, on the other hand, Theory without practice is STERILE )
And this axiom is strictly valid not only in Engineering but also in any walks of life!
So it is a fatal error separate these two indissoluble links!


 
Roy Bowdler 603091
Joined 25/07/2008 - 807 Posts
Thanks Luciano for assembling this evidence , although much of it would be better aligned with discussions about  how an engineer is defined and/or legally regulated.

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/807/25279

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/795/22574

My question for this thread relates to UK Chartered Engineer as described by UK-SPEC and regulated by Engineering Council.

In essence, I wanted to draw attention to the widespread inaccurate assumption that an Apprenticeship was for practical tradespeople of “lower” academic ability. This assumption had fostered negative prejudice and snobbery, in the education system, society and perhaps most egregiously by professional engineering institutions regulated by Engineering Council.  A strange situation since many older Engineers and senior managers were themselves former Apprentices?    

There is no strict definition of an “Apprenticeship”, although historically it involved a young person being bound by a contract of indenture to a master (or employer) typically until they reached the age of majority (then 21). During the 20th Century as compulsory school attendance evolved, they typically became 5 years from age 15 and from the 1970s 4 years.  The model simply combined formal learning part-time in a public institution, such as a Technical College or Polytechnic (which became universities in 1993) with work-based training. Many major employers had their own well-resourced specialist training establishments.  Unfortunately, much of this infrastructure was lost during the 1990s due to industry restructuring, including the privatisation and fragmentation of former state industries, including the loss of once major industries such as coal mining and steel making.  

Government initiatives to manage youth unemployment included “Apprenticeships” which debased the brand and would not have been considered acceptable in our profession. The expansion of university provision also offered the opportunity for anyone of average academic ability to gain a degree and half of young people now attend university. As an employer’s Training Manager, we were finding it hard to recruit the talent we needed for training as engineers and surveyors for our “apprenticeship” even rebranded as “Student Engineer”.  The solution became to develop a model , which when picked up by government as a policy eventually became “Degree Apprenticeships”.

The evidence emerging, is that employers who had forgotten apprenticeships as a pathway to roles like prospective Chartered Engineers have rediscovered the benefits , albeit firmly nudged by the Government’s Apprenticeship levy (which I won’t debate here). https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/

I obviously can’t predict the future, but the merits of a more intensive blend of learning and real world practice conducted concurrently are so obvious, that this has to be the future for most engineers and technicians, who are ready to pursue a career by their teens, rather than just "stay in school".

However, I want to stress that damaging good academic provision that has evolved to serve the full-time student model, would not serve us well and is not my aim.  I hope that anyone reading this, supports high standards and I enthusiastically support academically stretching programmes for engineers with exceptional abilities in mathematics and science.  We need research and development excellence.  What we don’t need is petty division and academic, or social snobbery.               

Some of you may be pleased to note that I intend to curtail my contributions in these forums shortly due to a change of circumstances. Thanks for reading!

 
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts
So such a German Technologist, who is neither an engineering technician nor an engineer, should be equivalent to the "new style"  Italian Industrial Perito  (Industrial Expert) holding an Italian Professional Degree, the newly introduced 3-year (Bachelor) academic qualification.

I quote:
"So since 2022 we'll have in the working world " Arena" :
Industrial Peritoes at level 3
As above but at level 6 ( called also " Super Peritoes" !...)
The same holds for the Surveyors (as above)
Higher Technicians at level 5
Engineers at level 6
Engineers at level 7 "
 
 
 
Moshe W 1100289692
Joined 14/04/2013 - 506 Posts

Luciano Bacco:
In fact being his qualification at level 6, this German guy call himself  "State-Certified Engineer" and not "Technician"!...
http://state-certified-engineer.com/
https://ec.europa.eu/ploteus/en/content/state-certified-technical-engineer-153

I think this was in the near past but it was corrected to State-certified Technician.  The certificate used to have state-certified engineer but the latest format no longer translates it this way.



 
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts
More:
Technical Engineer / Technologist vs Engineering Technician

http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-technician-and-technologist/
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts
In fact being his qualification at level 6, this German guy call himself  "State-Certified Engineer" and not "Technician"!...
http://state-certified-engineer.com/
https://ec.europa.eu/ploteus/en/content/state-certified-technical-engineer-153
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts
A system similar to the German one is to be adopted here in Italy with the preexisting Industrial Peritoes (Industrial Experts, a level 3 qualification- Engineering Technicians) within 2021 all of them who wish to go in the liberal profession, that is, to act as Professionals MUST, by virtue of a recent law approved by the Italian Parliament ( in order to align them  to the European Standard) hold what is here called a 3-year PROFESSIONAL DEGREE articled in two years of academic studies + 1 year of practical training (tirocinio). The ones working in the Industry as employees don't need to re-qualify at the degree level, instead. So the former would become Higher Technicians (Tecnici Superiori) but they are not at all satisfied with this denomination even because the Higher Technician one ( even this of recent introduction) already exists in the system, so they claim for the title of "Technical Engineer" ( Ingegnere Tecnico) but there is a strong opposition by the local Consiglio degli Ingegneri, equivalent to the UK Engineering Council and incorporating the 3-years engineers, equivalent to the British Incorporated ones and the five-years ones equivalent to CEng that state the title of Ingegnere" ( a professional title legally protected in this country) may not granted also to them! In other words the MUST stay (remain) in the Technicians area!
In a similar position are next to find themselves also the Surveyors!
So since 2022 we'll have in the working world " Arena" :

Industrial Peritoes at level 3
As above but at level 6 ( called also " Super Peritoes" !...)
The same holds for the Surveyors (as above)
Higher Technicians at level 5
Engineers at level 6
Engineers at level 7
Moshe W 1100289692
Joined 14/04/2013 - 506 Posts
In my experience, a combination of formal education and training with apprenticeship produces a well-rounded Engineers.
I admire the German system for its state-certified technicians who are level 6 on the German Qualification Framework. 
It begins with 2.5 years of approved supervised Apprentiantship, followed by 2 years of technical school education and successful passing of the State-certification examinations.
Germany is proud of its technicians.

 
Luciano Bacco 81378053
Joined 12/10/2004 - 789 Posts

Alasdair Anderson:
Having spent much of this week alongside an apprentice, my opinion is he has every possibility of becoming CEng whether or not he does the Masters he is now considering. I don't think there is a coherent pathway but (in this company at least, who are an IET Corporate Partner) there is support for the individual which is just as important. The problem with large companies is that there are a considerable number of Apprentices and each one ends up on a different pathway with a different end goal. The important thing is that those who are aiming at CEng (or even IEng) get the right support to allow them to achieve that goal.

William Hughes 1100166522
Joined 29/05/2012 - 4 Posts
I couldn't agree more.
Alasdair Anderson 11001195585
Joined 02/02/2017 - 952 Posts
Having spent much of this week alongside an apprentice, my opinion is he has every possibility of becoming CEng whether or not he does the Masters he is now considering. I don't think there is a coherent pathway but (in this company at least, who are an IET Corporate Partner) there is support for the individual which is just as important. The problem with large companies is that there are a considerable number of Apprentices and each one ends up on a different pathway with a different end goal. The important thing is that those who are aiming at CEng (or even IEng) get the right support to allow them to achieve that goal.
Roy Bowdler 603091
Joined 25/07/2008 - 807 Posts
Whether this advice was out of date when it was published in 2015 is debatable. However, It usefully illustrates the assumptions that this thread was intended to challenge. This happened to come up first on google, https://www.uwl.ac.uk/for-business/apprenticeships/applicants/our-apprenticeships/degree-apprenticeship-civil-engineering

There are now numerous apprenticeships intended to place someone on a clear pathway to Chartered recognition in Engineering and related areas.

It has always been the case that individuals developed from Apprentice to Chartered Engineer, but typically in the face of great difficulty, because no coherent pathway was set out. So if you slipped through the “A level” net and didn’t get on the accredited degree course (or didn't enjoy that approach), you were very likely to suffer at least a ten year penalty, if not be excluded altogether, even if your performance actually working as an engineer was outstanding.           

 

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