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

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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
 
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               
 
 
 
 

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

Posted by Graham Prebble on Apr 10, 2019 12:04 pm

Interesting article Roy.

I am not so sure about the 'academic snob' factor for C.Eng registration: perhaps years ago, but really not at all sure now. The whole point is to recognise that engineering carries a level of academic understanding to underpin it. Nowardays so little mathematical knowledge or really detailed analytical ability is actually needed in most walks of engineering, whereas when I graduated in 1986 hand calculations were still pretty common. Basically the simulation tools were so basic and poor as to be unusable in many instances.

We now demand a Master level degree as a basis for CEng registration. Why masters .. basically as degrees have rather dumbed down over the years. Is the academics being such a pivotal part of the registration process still the right emphasis I wonder. Over the years I have met, assessed, or interviewed many candidates who have no better than a Btech or HNC, but have progressed, learned, applied and are every bit as good as engineers who went to university. I am far more minded to be positive about these candidates as they have had to demonstrate tenacity, personal drive and bucking the system their whole lives to be on par.... but where in UKSpec can we see that guidance (please .. no answers on this - I am generalising).

I do believe that academics are important, but perhaps not as important as 20 or 30 years ago, not least as it is near impossible to compare academic levels from the various Universities of where-ville. To be a successful engineer now requires skills that we were never taught at University. After all, we (and I am talking my generation) were taught to be engineers, not managers. Now, an engineer must be able to manage, to communicate widely, to contribute way wider than their job remit, and apprenticeships teach a much wider breadth instead of perhaps a narrow depth. In many ways, they are rather more suited to the modern world.

What a really good debate you have prompted Roy...
Eur Ing Graham Prebble BSc MBA CEng IET Volunteer PRA, Assessor and Interviewer

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

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Apr 10, 2019 1:05 pm

Graham,
Very well said. How much of my day to day work was learned at university (graduated 1987)? Very little as it is mainly based on 30+ years of experience gained since.
However, how much of my 30+ years of experience could have been gained and understood without the underpinning knowledge from university? Again, very little.
If I were to go through my degree course again with the knowledge and experience I now have I am sure I would gain much more benefit from it. This seems to me to be a big plus for the Degree Apprenticeships which has had little discussion - the continuous feedback between learning and practice and back to further (reinforced) learning.
Alasdair

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

Posted by Arran Cameron on Apr 10, 2019 1:08 pm

Roy Bowdler:
In the political climate of the 1980s Government insisted on clear separation of “Trades Union” and “Learned Society” activities.

This was back in the 1980s under Thatcherite political and economic ideology. The world has changed significantly in the past 30 or so years and a whole new generation has grown up with no direct knowledge or life experience of the Thatcher Decade. I'm not an expert on trade unions myself but I'm vaguely aware that nowadays they are mostly for public sector workers and a few other occupations like train drivers. There aren't really any good trade unions for engineers, software developers, IT workers, and workers in other technical occupations.

I mentioned a pseudo trade union as in an organisation that provides many of the services of a trade union to its members but it isn't legally a trade union or affiliated with the TUC.

I don’t see any practical merits in forming another club or society, there are probably too many already, although any group of people can voluntarily affiliate and some good may come of it.

Can you name any of them?

 

Should apprenticeships be regarded equally as high as university degrees?

Posted by Mark Curtis on Apr 10, 2019 3:48 pm

Telling the truth about SME life today

Re: Should apprenticeships be regarded equally as high as university degrees?

Posted by Moshe Waserman CEng on Apr 11, 2019 1:53 am

Mark Curtis:
Telling the truth about SME life today

Mark, 
It's an interesting article. 
I think this can be a discussion on its own.
In the USA the ACE the American Council on Education states that basically, it doesn't matter if you learned to type at work or taking a class typing 101  as long as you can prove that you know how to type on the same level you deserve academic credit for that.  
As to University Degrees and the formation of the professional, we know that higher math, physics, and sciences are an important part of the formation of an Engineer. I don't know how an apprentice can earn an Engineering degree without covering such subjects in their formation. 
So the apprentice portion can cover a large portion of the degree concentration requirement but the science classes or alternative learning will need to be completed in parallel or before the apprenticeship.
Also, university degrees can be in concentration and instead of Bachelor of Science can be Bachelor of technology or Applied Engineering etc. Applied degrees can be more for the job market rather than being a university professor oriented. Professional Degrees geared toward the industry.
This is my take on this.
And yes it is an industry on its own :-)
 
Moshe Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET. Principal Engineer Life Cycle (A&E) - Architecture and Engineering

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

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Apr 11, 2019 8:27 am

Another interesting article on the BBC today: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47816870
This story provides the perspective of the individual rather than taking an overview.
Alasdair

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

Posted by Andy Millar on Apr 11, 2019 9:55 am

Hi Mark,

I'm afraid I have to say that despite being a passionate advocate of apprenticeships and other skills training I disagree with almost every statement in that article! The one bit I would agree with is the misguided idea that degrees (in their current form) are the appropriate education for the vast majority of the population, but this principle (stemming form the idea of the knowledge based economy - and then not appreciating the fact that you can get "knowledge", and even appreciation of how to handle knowledge, without doing a degree) ran across both the main political parties. 

The fundamental flaw is the idea that we know enough about psychology to judge at the age of 11 whether an apprenticeship or a degree is the "right" path for a child. Time and again it's proved we're not that clever! Let's give all them the chance of making that choice at the age of 17/18.

It does raise an interesting point about the UK snobbery against skills, but I don't see that as coming from mainstream education, it's far more complicated than that - and is a huge existential problem facing the UK (and, I suspect, most "Western" economies) at the moment.

But always interesting to see other's views on this issue, so thanks for posting that.

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 Apr 11, 2019 10:08 am

Hi all,

A sideways anecdote came up last night which shows we're not the only ones that suffer from this: I was chatting to my sister who, before retirement, held a senior role in a local authority, and used to battle with recruitment because their HR policy / pay grading structure said that graduates must always be paid more than non-graduates even if they were doing the same role. Which in practice meant she often struggled to attract the best people to the job. 

My sister, who went to college in the early 1970s, does not have a degree - as the vast majority of people at that time didn't. Policies like this are not just silly, they are bordering on ageism.

Just thought I'd lob that one in!

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 Roy Bowdler on Apr 11, 2019 11:34 am

Graham, thanks for your obviously very well informed thoughtful contribution. 

We live in an age of acute sensitivity to what have become unacceptable forms of negative prejudice, an over-sensitivity in my opinion. We shouldn’t impinge upon people’s right to express preferences, likes and dislikes, or affiliate how they wish, including by academic means which has become a currency that has to some extent supplanted earlier indicators of social class. Humans are by nature tribal and wish somehow to distinguish between “them and us”, if the “us” group holds some form of social advantage, then it get calls “snobbery” which is legal, if this were gender of race based then it would be illegal (in The UK).

Some simplistic personal observations: Most engineers and technicians in the workplace are far too occupied with their common productive purpose. Most businesses aren’t perfect meritocracies, but they prioritise performance and competence in practice over academic qualifications. The education system (including universities) seems to me to have become obsessed with competition and rank. Much of the “Engineering Council family” seeks to serve only a narrow fraction of “elite” engineers . So CEng is described by EC as offering “The status of being part of a technological elite” . Status and snobbery go together.  By chance this subject came up recently at a discussion between four experienced IEng (3 FIET), two felt that they had not experienced negative prejudice and two were adamant that it was endemic.        

Academic excellence and research are good things, but not especially relevant, to evaluating the competence of, or in particular discriminating between, most practising Engineers for the purposes of placing them on a register of professionals.  If we assume that almost all of the potential “Engineers and Technicians” who we wish to serve, will continue to engage in formal education into their early twenties, different blends of knowledge will tend to optimise them for different roles. By that point in time most will never again engage with the “education system”.  Some may have already acquired a sufficiently sound base of knowledge and skills via an apprenticeship to carry them through a long career, others may have a good education which potentially can be developed into productive skills.  A key part of my proposition here is that for a prospective Chartered Engineer the most optimum and efficient blend is to combine higher education and experience concurrently and intensively, such that by early twenties they have both good education and immediately productive skills as an “Engineer”.   There is unlikely any time soon if ever, for there to be enough opportunities for young people to follow this model as an “employed” Apprentice. Some people may also be better served by a full-time academic experience or a more “academic” programme.  

This is not a “black and white” or “good versus bad” argument, I’m talking about optimisation (including in financial terms).  Many employers might prefer to employ someone in their twenties with a good education and any “teenage growing pains” behind them or ideally just be able to recruit a “ready-made” engineer when they want one. So part of our problem is a mismatch of expectations with academia seeking to “educate” and some employers thinking that a degree in engineering is a “training programme”.              

I have described an engineer having “bachelors and masters level attributes” as shorthand benchmarks. Without wishing to debate the minutiae of how these attributes are defined here, we should reasonably expect a professional engineer to demonstrate at least “bachelors type” capability and if as I have suggested, chartered recognition was built on top of this then “masters type” capability at that threshold.  It is well proven that many engineers progress to “masters level” in career, albeit that they may need some focussed development to demonstrate such learning in an academic manner.  

Where I am strongly critical of our efforts as a profession and therefore by implication those senior academics and bureaucrats who have de-facto exercised control, is the badly flawed assumption that an engineer’s career is set into a silo on the basis of their ranked aptitude for higher level mathematics and science during their teens.  This criticism isn’t  just aimed at Engineering Council, since the international Washington Accord adopts this same flawed assumption.  Of course there are some correlations between early stage academic performance and later performance in career, but much is just assumed going back to the time when getting to university at all was relatively rare and being “a university graduate” offered a significant advantages of itself (often socially derived).     

Having written this yesterday evening but not had time to post until now- Just to pick up on some of the later comments, thanks Alastair and well-spotted with the BBC article.  

Mark/Andy, I don’t think that Mark agreed with every word of the links he posted (please correct me Mark if you did) but they help to illustrate the issue. What I don’t think is helpful is the “left versus right political tone” of some, these issues should be above "party political point scoring".  We have had two long serving UK Prime Ministers in my time who each came to define an era and members of the “opposing tribe” endlessly slag off one or the other.  If I stick to this century only, government policies in the early noughties enabled me (with others) to evolve an “employer led degree apprenticeship” and that model was taken up by more recent governments as a policy cornerstone. The motives behind these policies is another debate.              

Moshe, I’m pleased to see and don’t disagree with your contribution, its great that you add an international perspective.

Arran,  in a Trades Union context Prospect would be a good example https://www.prospect.org.uk/about/who/index  although obviously it is a “real” union rather than a “pseudo” one.  In the Engineering Council Family there are numerous “members and affiliates” offering slightly different propositions    https://www.engc.org.uk/peis     https://www.engc.org.uk/pas .  There are a plethora of “trade associations” and commercial membership offerings with self-employed members (who are often de-facto employees of larger employers). I picked this link because many of us don’t seem to think of Engineering as including Construction   http://www.ibp.org.uk/trade-associations-and-industry-groups/ .  

 

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

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Apr 11, 2019 1:15 pm

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2019/04/12-institutes-of-technology-created-for-further-education/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_campaign=New%20EandT%20News%20-%20Automation%20FINAL%20-%20MEMBER&utm_medium=Newsletters%20-%20E%26T%20News&utm_content=E%26T%20News%20-%20Members&utm_term=https%3A%2F%2Feandt.theiet.org%2Fcontent%2Farticles%2F2019%2F04%2F12-institutes-of-technology-created-for-further-education%2F

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

Posted by Andy Millar on Apr 11, 2019 7:40 pm

And government press release here here it is

Interesting that this release makes no mention of UTCs, I can see these are slightly different, but it would be nice to be sure there was joined up thinking here. And of course the fact that there are still technical colleges around. Does feel a bit like it being more fun for the Government to create something new rather than improve what we have...but on the other hand I can't knock there being more opportunities - as long as it isn't robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Sorry, that's gone slightly off topic. I'll make an effort to bludgeon it back:

Roy, yes totally agree regarding all your points about mine and Mark's posts ☺ The interesting point is that this press release is all about being able to make choice (not forced selection) in education at a sensible point in someone's life. I wonder if Institutes of Technology will support adult career changers? Too early to speculate I suspect - but I couldn't see any sign of that in this release.

On another point, (I don't think I've actually posted this before, just thought it, but sorry if I am repeating): I think "elite" is such an emotionally charged word - particularly after it's highly cynical political use by, ironically, very rich and powerful people recently (grrr) - that it's difficult now to use in this context. Happy to discuss further.

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 Roy Bowdler on Apr 15, 2019 9:22 am

Thanks Andy for picking up on the press release and as a result I picked up the link to the earlier one https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-secretary-outlines-plans-to-get-more-people-into-skilled-jobs

I don’t for the purposes of this discussion wish to align with any political party or initiatives, but of course I’m broadly supportive of the direction of travel.  After all, if recent governments hadn’t picked up this agenda, then the arguments that I have put forward over many years would have remained marginalised within the world of professional engineering and probably dismissed as a “personal grudge”.    

The Education Secretary contrasts the UK situation with Germany, but focusses on Skills and Productivity. Senior spokespeople for the “engineering profession” have made similar comparisons, but the emphasis was on the relative status of engineers. With the UK problem characterised as being about young people not choosing Maths and Physics as A level subjects. Similar messages from the leaders of our profession over time, invented “oily rag man” as a supposed model of the public’s perception of engineers and later added “hard hat man” as another “negative stereotype” (perhaps with female sensibilities in mind which I’m OK with) inevitably also used as a contrast with “academic elite” engineers.  We created a culture in which one of our own two types of professional engineers became characterised as an “inferior and limited plodder”, in contrast to the “highly educated” and therefore “creative and innovative” engineer of “elite” status.

Whether using the word “elite” is just a marketing enticement, an attitude, or even an insulting epithet aimed at anyone with some power of influence (or even me
😮). The reality is that most PEIs and therefore Engineering Council have long treated those who fall into two of the three professional categories that we codify as convenient inferior pejoratives. An obvious symptom is our endless arguments about whether to try to revive the dying IEng brand or “knock it on the head”. I can only relate that, when I offered it to a substantial number of young degree qualified engineers for free (as an employer) they saw it as an inferior offering and didn’t choose to pursue it.  In addition, when I pressed for a PEI to accredit an excellent Honours Degree forming part of an apprenticeship, I didn’t realise that what it got was an inferior second class ticket for “the PEI express”.  

There are no benefits to be had in raking over past failings, unless that is we cannot accept our failures. I’m not saying that there haven’t been some successes, or that we should engage in some sort of “Witch Hunt”. It is ridiculous to “point the finger” at Chartered Engineers generally for working hard to deservedly achieve a challenging terminal standard of professional recognition.  I drive what might be considered a “premium” car, simply because it offered the best package for my budget at the time. My argument here is simply that someone completing an apprenticeship should also be able to make such a choice if they have the “budget”, not be sent to the “tradespersons entrance”.

To look forward, but I’m afraid on a controversial note. If Engineering Council cannot accept the principle of this thread, then it will become decisively no longer fit for purpose in my opinion. If as I hope, it recognises the need for change, then that becomes a difficult challenge, which only government support can help enable. Does anyone remember the Uff report advocating change from within?

I have suggested that in terms of standards UK-SPEC “isn’t too far off”. I have also suggested that that the IEng category, for so long now mortally wounded and dying a lingering death in the marketplace (except for a few redoubts) is replaced with “professional registered engineer” a similar category which every prospective Chartered Engineer should be required to demonstrate , before working over a “supervised period” towards CEng.  This is in some respects a modest technical change, but difficult and symbolic changes in attitudes would be required and the hopeless mess that has become “partial CEng versus IEng” Bachelors Honours Degree accreditation would have to go. The angelic dancers fell off the head of that particular pin long ago in my opinion.

If certain PEIs wish to continue policies which negatively discriminate against those from the apprenticeship pathway, either directly or indirectly, then that is their democratic right, but they should not be licensed to carry public benefit responsibilities. This is analogous to the Golf Club excluded from holding the Open Championship, because of gender discrimination.  

It goes without saying that better engagement by currently under represented stakeholders (such as employers) in governance is essential , as is the creation of positive messages in respect of all registrants. Patronising messages  aren’t “positive”, they are “talking down”.  There are I’m afraid some who have been able to influence Engineering Council policy, lacking sufficient understanding of or respect for the capability of others, or are just simply seeking a “political stitch up” to place their “tribe” in control over others.  This infringes upon the rights of others to exercise their competence to the extent that it exists.  Registered Engineers and Technicians are all by definition expert in something. Some Eng Tech & IEng registrants are vastly experienced technical specialists and senior managers, although most of those who could have been eligible to register in these categories, haven’t bothered for the very reason that it only invites some “entitled type” to claim “superiority”.  If we want to discuss who is or isn’t a suitably qualified and experienced person for a particular task on the basis of evidence, then that is something else.  

I agree with the minister’s frame of reference “As a nation I’m afraid we’ve been technical education snobs. We’ve revered the academic but treated vocational as second class - when we do it well, law, engineering, medicine - then we don’t even call it vocational”.

We need to focus on skills and productivity.  I would also like to see those with skills in engineering and technology held in high esteem by society as I think that on the whole they already are.  If we focus on the positive collective contribution to society of all those who we seek to represent, then we don’t have to be so “needy” of individual “status”. By coincidence I’m a Chartered member (30+ years) of another profession that long seemed obsessed about its own “status”. As it got over that somewhat, it has become the profession that has probably enabled more women to reach “Director level” than any other, but through career progression, not academic pre-selection as teenagers.  



 

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

Posted by Mehmood Birdi on Apr 16, 2019 4:32 am

If you could hypothetically remove surgeons (and assosiated medical research staff) from the medical profession with a magic wand; so that only general practitioners, nurses, and skilled medical staff (who operate ct scanners, x-ray machines etc) would remain to man the front line; what do you suppose would be their prospects to continue to survive as a profession? Could hospitals continue to exist?

Likewise, if you could magically, remove all of the engineers (whether EC registered or not) who apply advance mathematical tools as part of their work; so that only apprenticeship based practical engineers, and technicians were left behind to carry on with the work. What would be their prospects of surviving the demands put on them as engineers and managers?

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

Posted by Arran Cameron on Apr 16, 2019 10:55 am

Mehmood Birdi:
If you could hypothetically remove surgeons (and assosiated medical research staff) from the medical profession with a magic wand; so that only general practitioners, nurses, and skilled medical staff (who operate ct scanners, x-ray machines etc) would remain to man the front line; what do you suppose would be their prospects to continue to survive as a profession? Could hospitals continue to exist?

Most surgeons in NHS hospitals are titled Mr / Mrs rather Dr, so they are probably of a lower status than a consultant or a GP. I think that surgeons are also inside the Agenda for Change pay band structure, whereas doctors are not, so they can't set their own salaries based on performance or experience. The primary function of the NHS is providing front line services for established medical conditions rather than carrying out medical research. There is a general belief that the NHS should provide a better quality of service for the services that it already provides rather than expanding to new services or carrying out medical research.


Likewise, if you could magically, remove all of the engineers (whether EC registered or not) who apply advance mathematical tools as part of their work; so that only apprenticeship based practical engineers, and technicians were left behind to carry on with the work. What would be their prospects of surviving the demands put on them as engineers and managers?

It depends on the company that they are employed for. In the UK the majority of engineering companies are SMEs and it's probably safe to say that only a fraction of them do any real cutting edge research that requires deep and advanced knowledge of mathematics, physics, or other fundamentals. Companies that research semiconductor physics require a lot in the way of 'brains' of PhD level whereas companies that design products based around off the shelf ICs soldered on a PCB can often get by successfully by folk with only HNC or A Level knowledge backed up by some self study here and there.

 

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

Posted by Mehmood Birdi on Apr 16, 2019 1:26 pm

Arran, the titles of Dr vs Mr, or Mrs isn't important here. Surgeons can do everything that GPs can do (diagnose and prescribe medication), except that they also chose to specialise in a particilar area of surgery. Some surgeons are also involved in medical research to improve effectiveness of their surgery to patients.

If you took away surgeons, medical research staff, and related pharmaceutical industry, then would the NHS survive as we know it today on just GPs and Nurses? Consider that there would be no research to cure for various diseases; and no modern medicines to take to relieve sickness. If you take it further back in time, how would that have impacted on the NHS? Would there have ever been an NHS?

Likewise, if you take the scenario further back in time for engineering and technology; if there were no one to apply advance engineering mathematics, would we now have the type of modern computer and communications such as: the Internet, 3G/4G mobile phone system and smartphones, computer systems, AI, computer software; Television. And what about modern electronics and integrated circuits? Could it have come about without the discovery of quantum mechanics? Would we have had space travel?

How would apprenticeship based engineers and technicians be able to progress in the coming years without the application of advanced mathematics? Where would our profession be today without mathematics? 

Getting back to Roys original point. I see no problem in apprentice based engineers being awarded CEng; and I also think that IEngs with degrees, with strong mathematical content should also be allowed to transfer to CEng. After all, they don't increase the maths content at masters level; It's pretty much the same as BSc/BEng.

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

Posted by Jonathan Tidball on Apr 22, 2019 9:05 am

I have recently successfully gained my CEng Status.

I left school 19 years ago and joined a large UK Steel company where I completed a 4 year apprenticeship. This gave me the foundation level to enable me to progress my career. During the 4 years I achieved NVQ level 3 and a HNC in Electrical Power.  The company showed no drive to promote becoming professional registered or joining an Institute, it was in fact a college lecturer who supported me in becoming a MIET.

A couple of years later I decided to apply for EngTech after gaining more experience, which I was successful in obtaining.

During the next 10 years I progressed through the organisation for apprentice, electrical inspector, Plant Engineer.  During my time as a Plant Engineer I had the drive to go back for further education completing my HND.

I then had the bug and carried on with a Degree gaining a BEng (Hons) Electrical Engineering 2:1 in 2015 whilst working full time and managing family life.

As this degree was accredited to IEng with the IET I started my application and successfully gained the IEng status in June 2016.  At this point in my career I didn’t have the relevant design experience to meet the CEng level.  This tied into the time of uncertainty in the steel industry so I decided to pursue a new career in a design consultancy.

During the past 2.5 years I have developed so much as an engineer and this give me the confidence to apply for CEng.  I submitted my application in January 2018 and was requested for further evidence in areas C&D, after this was accepted I was then invited to a Technical Interview at the IET offices in London on areas A&B.  Once I passed this assessment I was then invited to a PRI and have recently received confirmation that I have gained the CEng status.

It makes a big difference when your organisation are supportive for Professional Registration.  I never expected 19 years ago I would get to CEng but now I am overjoyed.  I have recently supported junior engineers in gaining EngTech and IEng.

I can say the route I have taken, I wouldn’t change as I have great hands on experience coupled with theoretical knowledge.  There is hope in progression from apprentice to CEng but you need to be driven and have a company that supports the institute and professional registration.

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

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Apr 24, 2019 9:38 am

Apologies to subscribers, I had to delete the previous post, fat fingers I'm afraid🙄 it was a draft version, that I couldn’t correct in time (because it was too long 🙄) 

Jonathan,
 

Congratulations on your recent successful assessment and Chartered Engineer Registration. You help to illustrate several relevant issues to this discussion. The first and most obvious positive one is that having completed a practical Apprenticeship to level 3, you have through career development and part-time study achieved the CEng milestone at around the current average age for a new CEng registrant.   

There are a substantial group who follow a more academic early pathway as a full-time undergraduate, followed by a company operated graduate training programme, gaining the recognition from around 8 years into career. However, graduates without structured employer support can take significantly longer and often lose interest until “mid career” when people seem more drawn towards our current model. Even the many employers who are nominally quite supportive, tend only to see value in "senior sign off” or “market visible”  Engineers being CEng. It is our responsibility to convince more employers that registration can add value to more of their Engineers.   

One of the main reasons I started this thread was to draw attention to Degree Apprenticeships (“level 6”). These include higher level part-time study from the beginning and typically take around four years. Starting age isn’t fixed, but for direct comparison with a full-time undergraduate student we could assume 18. I contend that these can be at least an equally valid pathway to CEng when compared to a full-time degree and should be treated as such. 

Your example also helps to illustrate two of the “problems”, “barriers” or “tripping points” which I have highlighted. 

Firstly, despite having an accredited UK BEng (Hons) Degree in Engineering and very considerable work-based learning, you were required to undertake a Technical Interview to demonstrate your underpinning knowledge and understanding.  This  course of action would be very rare for an engineer also holding a UK BEng (Hons) Degree, but classed as “partly CEng accredited”, rather than “IEng accredited”, so you were presumed to have an “inferior degree” and placed in a disadvantageous position.  Your story also doesn’t seem to suggest that already being IEng registered offered you any “advantage”, despite most of the competences being substantially similar, or even identical.  I have witnessed negative bias towards IEng from some CEng, which may also create disadvantage, although this is less prevalent in the IET than in some PEIs, where IEng is very much regarded in inferior pejorative terms.  If we take any emotive element out of it, then many if not most Chartered Engineers would at least regard themselves as “a different breed to IEng”.   

Secondly, you also describe an interpretation of UK-SPEC which assumes “design” to be the main preeminent activity of engineers. There are many Engineers of chartered standard who are not primarily engaged in “designing” and  may therefore find themselves at a disadvantage.  The UK-SPEC standard is open to considerable variations in interpretation from different people, who also often develop strongly held opinions to go with their interpretation. Design Consultants (aka businesses specialising in design) offer a particular perspective, but this doesn’t mean that engineers/engineering managers in major industries like Manufacturing, Infrastructure, or even Armed Forces are “less able” because they are “less design focussed”?  Some in Academic research or R&D would even view most design as “routine” and therefore lacking in the “creativity and innovation” that they expect. At the last revision of UK-SPEC the standard was adjusted to be better balanced towards “technical responsibility”, but minor changes to standards, don’t get noticed and many people have fairly fixed ideas anyway. 

Your delight must also be tinged with some relief. Others have undertaken a similar journey, but ending with a different verdict and have been left feeling “hard done by”. A Chartered Engineer Assessment should be rigorous and demanding, but had you been unsuccessful then you might have reasonably asked; “what else was I supposed to have done”? A twenty-year career with work-based learning, progressive part-time accredited formal learning to degree level, progressive registration, a change in career direction to gain additional experience?  As I see it we have a duty to help all members to maximise their potential, not just those who excelled in maths and science A levels and gained admission to one of our preferred (mostly full-time) degree courses.

In my original proposition for this thread,  I expressed serious concern that those following the Degree Apprenticeship pathway could be sold IEng as a “stepping-stone to CEng”, only to find themselves stuck on that stone, while age group peers of similar capability were given a comfortable “by-pass” to follow. 
Equal performance should gain equal recognition!
   

Mehmood,

I wrote 99% of this response before seeing Jonathan’s post. It is longer than ideal because this is a complex nuanced argument that has run for decades and someone joining the discussion now needs a reasonably full context without having to dig backwards in the forums.    


Thanks for at least setting out what I would characterise as “the traditional academic perspective”. I hope that you don’t feel that that to be an unreasonable or negative characterisation. 

As for Medical General Practitioners, I’m not sufficiently familiar with education, training and politics within the medical profession to comment usefully. I have had one or two GP friends, but generally they have wanted to relax away from their work, not “talk shop”.  I have never had any reason to regard a GP as a “lower” type of Medical Doctor. It seems obvious to me that in any field of endeavour, someone clever who specialises in something narrow for a long time becomes a deep expert and someone of equal talent but with a different pattern of learning will cover wider ground. I don’t know of any evidence base demonstrating that those who choose narrow specialism over generalism are of higher intelligence or “cleverer”. For example, those with a broader view predominate amongst strategic leaders, who often orchestrate the contribution of a variety of experts. Or in the case of accountants count the cost of them😉. 

Perhaps those who are most influential at Engineering Council prefer to compare Engineers with specialists in Medicine or Science? If that is their “peer group” such as in a senior academic environment, then this is understandable. Most engineers in workplaces are likely to be colleagues of other “chartered professionals” such as surveyors or accountants, who are among the professions to have developed Apprenticeships explicitly leading to Chartered.  Some of them rely on the chartered title to inform customers about their credentials as experts working within a professional code of conduct. Most Chartered Engineers work as part of a team and rely on their employer’s reputation in the marketplace.   

Is the professional registration of engineers and technicians a “cleverness competition” for the limited resource of holding “elite status”, or is it intended to recognise those who have achieved proficiency in their field and chosen to affiliate to a professional community?  My argument here is based on “standards not status” or “skills and productivity”. The principle is that; the value we add collectively is more important than (often petty) divisions between us.      

We have a situation where only a minority of even those potentially eligible for chartered registration have chosen to engage, with the existing cohort having an average age around 60. The alternate forms of “Incorporated” and “Technician” have become widely negatively characterised as, “not chartered” and “nowhere near chartered”, rather than in positive terms for the skills they seek to recognise. One potential driver of these negative characterisations is a societal culture of academic competition and an over-emphasis on academic examinations as a form of currency.  A pernicious effect of PEI efforts, has also been the negative characterisation of equally valid bachelors honours degrees (according to the government regulator) as “inferior”, if they dare to emphasise “applications” (i.e. actual engineering), rather than mathematical and scientific theory. Therefore, few universities now offer such degrees unless they have strong employer support.  Employers who incorrectly assumed that an engineering degree is a “training programme” have been disappointed.  A few may also have been disappointed by their graduates lack of fluency in advanced calculus, but most wouldn’t notice, because this is not an attribute that is very regularly needed. 

As I see it; among those who practice Engineering & Technology at graduate level and beyond there is (as suggested by ASME and others) a continuum between “Theory led” and “Practice led”.  There is probably some correlation between those who passed the most challenging examinations in mathematics and science (usually around the age of 18-20) and being more “theory led”.  However, there are also many other aptitudes and  evolving attributes that may correlate with a subsequent successful career as an engineering and technology professional, included related management and leadership roles.   

Most Chartered Engineers and their unregistered but similar equivalents would agree that a professional engineer requires some solid foundations of understanding in mathematics, science and communication skills.  The unresolved problem here is the phrase “some solid foundations” i.e. what does this mean and to what extent does any interpretation correlate with later performance. So for example, does a 100% examination score in calculus at the age of 19, have any relationship to performance as an  Engineer or Engineering Manager some years later?  We don’t to my knowledge have much reliable evidence, although we have a lot of “belief” based on “tradition”.  Half a century ago craft Toolmakers or Fitters used to produce artefacts using machine and hand tools, now we have CNC machines, 3D printing etc. Office based technicians and engineers, used slide rules or rudimentary computers , although very few were developing “new” mathematical or scientific insight, they applied standard formulas often in a laborious and labour intensive way; we have software tools to do that quickly now.     

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to study a group (number 35) of high performing mid-career engineers in a technology leading business. I compared “performance” using UK-SPEC judgements, against academic background. Similar levels of performance were illustrated by those with HNC compared to MSc, with some ONC qualified people being nearly as good. This wasn’t perfect research, but the obvious hypothesis was that subsequent work-based learning was more important than teenage academic “ranking”. I should also note that higher education opportunities were historically much less available, so those with the potential to gain a degree often didn’t get the opportunity.  The current selection process using A level results and “personal statements” is an imperfect measure of potential as well.  I haven’t conducted a detailed study, but I would hypothesise that in many technical environments the correlation between academic and subsequent professional performance is not that strong. 

The fundamental problem of using academic measures, is that for most engineers the measuring stops by the age of around 21-23.  At that age is likely that some from the higher/degree apprenticeship pathway will be employed in as an engineer with the potential to develop towards Chartered. A graduate without the same opportunity to have gained work based-learning will usually be a little behind, but with appropriate training likely to catch up within a year or two. Some of a “more academic” nature may be optimised to achieve stronger performance in certain types of environment, but on the whole they will be similar. Trying to create a distinction based on academic examination results several years earlier doesn’t seem valid to me? An exam could be taken at the time of registration, but what would it measure and how?  Grasp of theory isn’t a measure of professional competence, although there may be a correlation.  Obviously those with a track record of success in such examinations hold them in high regard, but does science confirm this?  Is anyone aware of any double blind trials?  

We (The Engineering Council Family) has a choice about whether or not we wish “Engineers” to become members of our community. If we want to narrowly define who should be a “fully developed professional engineer”, in a way that  has the effect of excluding very many who seem to clearly meet that definition, then that decision has consequences.  When nearly half a century ago, the entry gate barrier to CEng became a degree, some alternative mechanisms were put in place such as “Technician Engineer”, open theory examinations, or the possibility of “mature entry” after a 10 year penalty. As we moved into this century IEng (formerly Tech Eng) joined the more academically orientated engineering world, partly in the hope of becoming “Chartered Engineering Technologist”, but that “opportunity” was lost, as was the IIE and concept of a “different but equally valuable, more practical engineer”.  

 

Therefore my proposal for the future is; that CEng must reflect as it always has to some extent, a compromise between “practice led” and “theory led” engineers. I have advocated that each should become recognised as an “engineer” who should be demonstrating  graduate attributes.  Those who wish to become a Chartered Engineer, benchmarked at post-graduate or “masters level”, must then embark upon a significant period of monitored professional development before being recognised. My proposal intentionally positions those from the apprenticeship pathway of “graduate standard” alongside former full-time undergraduates with some work experience as “equals”. It seems reasonable that those who have an MEng or front-end MSc courses may gain some modest advantages in progressing towards CEng, but the former Apprentice could also gain the same advantage via a work-based MSc, these are already offered by a number of universities and former apprentices have an excellent success record.  The IET has the proven capability to offer Bachelors and Masters equivalence to work-based learning, when needed, but ideally I would like to see stronger university and employer partnerships taking “most of the strain”.   

If employers need some more academically orientated graduate engineers, then they should be able to support that approach, through sponsorship, work-placements, or forms of degree apprenticeships. If other employers need more practically skilled graduate engineers then they can do likewise; we need all types! Government actions to revitalise apprenticeships at higher levels have already “nudged” us in the direction that I am proposing. If we don’t want to accept that signal, or if the political goodwill towards the higher levels of apprenticeships is lost, then the usual “few tweaks” by Engineering Council this year will probably feel enough to those in control. Since they tend to only change anything every five years, another opportunity for us to gain wider relevance and engagement will be lost.   

Many among us like to characterise others who practise engineering and technology as “inferior”. Wouldn’t it be better if the majority who are competent and of good character but not currently engaged, contributed to recognising “superior” or “advanced” performance?  For me this simply means “built from the bottom up not the top down”.  

 


      

 


 

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

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Apr 26, 2019 9:19 am

https://feweek.co.uk/2019/04/26/plans-for-phd-level-apprenticeships-thrown-into-doubt/

https://feweek.co.uk/2019/03/20/stop-levy-funding-for-all-level-6-and-7-apprenticeships-demands-training-providers/

Is this debate perhaps a factor in Engineering Council’s reluctance to embrace Apprenticeships in the context of Chartered Engineer?  

 

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

Posted by Moshe Waserman CEng on Apr 29, 2019 12:56 pm

It appears that there is CEng -and CEng second rate,  IEng and IEng second rate.
In my humble opinion once a person achieves registration it should be somewhat equal in standing.
But registrants with via other routs are seemed to be the second rate. For example, they are currently excluded from international registers 
The second rate also is not covered under international agreements be it Sydney, Dublin or Washington accords.
And finally last but not least they will face disadvantage on a job market by employers be it nationally or internationally for one simple reason, not having a university degree.
So I think the professional registration is a huge plus for the apprentice or hybrid level professional and it will provide a recognized professional title. But these individuals should work toward an accredited 
BEng, BSc, MEng, in order to move from second rate group into the first-rate group.

Many jobs postings in the UK will list something like this as a requirement: And the second rate group may have a disadvantage.
 

REQUIREMENTS

Essential Skills and Experience: 

Degree qualified (minimum 2:1) with a relevant engineering degree. 

Chartered Engineer, or actively working towards it 
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- other listings have the following language:

Skills/experience required:

  • An engineering qualification, to HND or Degree level

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


Requirements:

  • A Degree in Civil or Structural Engineering
  • A Chartered member of the Institute of Structural Engineers and Civil Engineers.
  • Minimum of 5 years design experience on building structures projects in the UK


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

Skills/experience required:

  • An engineering/science qualification, to HND or Degree level
----------------------------------

Some Engineer jobs list specific experience with no specific education requirements.

Requirements:

You will bring to the role:

  • Excellent technical, analytical and problem solving skills.
  • Strong organisation, planning, and delivery skills.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication ability.



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

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Studying towards or achieved a numerate degree (minimum 2:1) or equivalent qualification
    • Preferably engineering, mathematics or the sciences
  • A practical mindedness and a passion for motorsport.
Moshe Waserman BEET, MCGI, CEng MBCS, MIET. Principal Engineer Life Cycle (A&E) - Architecture and Engineering

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

Posted by Roy Bowdler on May 15, 2019 2:20 pm

The latest developments

https://www.engc.org.uk/news/news/degree-apprenticeships-update-from-the-office-for-students/

The linked page for Apprentices states  "Many engineering apprenticeships now lead to professional registration as an Engineering Technician (EngTech), ICT Technician (ICTTech) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng). Achieving professionally registered status at the end of your apprenticeship is a great way to demonstrate what you have learnt.  It will also set you apart from others as you compete for jobs or promotion."

Note; no mention of Chartered Engineer , although it does get a mention hidden away in a sub menu.

This afternoon from 2pm The Engineering Professors Council is discussing 

 
  • Panel 1:  Accreditation – Supporting Change in Engineering Education?
  • Panel 2: Apprenticeships – Emerging From the Hype

Later at 3.30pm
 
  • Panel 3: Sailing in the Winds of Change – How Engineering HE Should Respond to Government Policies

I wonder whether they will adopt the policy set out by my proposition for this thread?  I also wonder what the title of panel A suggests? I assume that it is aimed at Politicians not Apprentices who have long suffered from negative prejudices and disadvantage in the world of professional engineering.  The grounds for this negative stereotyping have typically been academic, although it would be unfair to place the blame for this on Engineering Professors generally.  I hope that the overwhelming majority of them ensure that working with employers, Degree Apprenticeships become increasingly renowned as an excellent pathway for prospective Chartered Engineers over the next few years, not the “poor relation” of the past.  There is a perfectly valid role for academic excellence, research etc, which we should encourage and support, but not through snobbery and one upmanship which has no place in a system of professional recognition for the 21st Century. More scientifically/mathematically/theoretical Engineers are an essential part of the profession, but so are those of a more “applied” nature. In my eyes the “hype” has come from those trying to ration status for a “Technological Elite”, greatly restricting the majority of trained engineers of graduate calibre from progression to the "terminal" (Chartered) standard of their profession, on the basis of their A level scores!        

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