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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.
‘Stigma against apprenticeships must end,’ says Network Rail boss. Mark Carne, Network’s Rail’s chief executive (Rail Technology News)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 and he will sail through - not because he has apprenticeship + degree but because he is a brilliant engineer!)
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.