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Should the IET take charge of Professional Engineering Remuneration and Emloyment Matters fo...

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Should the IET take charge of Professional Engineering Remuneration and Emloyment Matters following the Demise of UKAPE?

Posted by Malcolm Davies on Aug 31, 2019 1:07 pm

Thank you gentlemen all for your excellent contributions in response to my PLEA as posted under the heading:

Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?
 

Perhaps one point from my initial posting that deserves restatement and invites comment from the IET Community as a Professional Body seeking to PROMOTE Professional Engineering as a viable, valuable and rewarding Career Choice to our school leavers - is that the recent survey published in The Engineer Magazine and supported by a leading Recruitment Agency namely CBS Butler does the reputation of our Profession no favours. The 2019 Engineering Salarry Survey by CBS Butler, gathered a totally inadequate number of data sets - only 1568 - data that is consequently spread far too thinly across all fields of UK engineering, all levels of seniority, all grades/categories of professional membership, public versus private sector employment and certainly no salary medians, upper and lower quartiles in each category, nor median salary in 5 year age bands from graduate level to retirement/consultancy level. Consequently the fact that a Chartered Engineer may reasonably expect to earn 50% more than most non-registered, non-chartered engineers is entirely lost from sight. The resultant 'average' salary figures presented (circa £48k +/- £5k) entirely misrepresents salaries being paid to our best qualified Chartered Engineers and thus will serve as a positive DISINCENTIVE to aspiring school leavers. From my own records, I bench marked my salary and in 1979, (as a recently promoted, Chartered Telecommunications Engineer, working in the SE England in Private Industry R&D), it was slightly above that of Public Sector MPs. It is perhaps worthy of note that today, some 40 years later - with backbench MPs on a basic salary of some £80k pa (and ignoring their STILL very generous expenses packages) then mature Chartered Engineers may expect to command and earn between £55k to £75k (not as a Director) in the UK private sector high-tech industries (e.g. Oil, Nuclear, Aerospace, Telecommunications, Electronics, Energy, Automotive, Pharma, Petro-Chemical, Power, Utilities etc). Indeed there are one or two notable exceptions of over £90k earnings on offer if working as a Programme Manager/Technical/Systems Specialist for Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, Matrix Churchill, Jaguar Landrover etc..So there is still hope for the healthy growth and promotion of our Profession - but ONLY if we (the IET or an alternative Professional Trade Union such as UKAPE - Now Demised) takes a firm and controlling role in what data is actually published in the media. Please note that this is NOT an elitist rant, indeed quite the opposite. Given that the IET now has in excess of 168,000 Members spread over 150 Countries World Wide, we should celebrate the value and contribution made by all grades of IET Membership whether as Engineering Technicians, ICT Technicians, Incorporated Engineers or Chartered Engineers, recognising that in today’s world, we work in multi-disciplined teams and can expect to receive support and encouragement from our employers towards setting the standards for education, examination, qualification, training and Continuous Professional Development as appropriate, in line with each individual’s potential to grow into larger and larger roles. The excellent and comprehensively informative IEE Annual Salary Surveys, managed and published by the IEE from 1974 until 1998, were examples of how it should be done. Surely, with an annual income from subscriptions alone in excess of £25 million and with the demise of UKAPE after 40 years of frustration within under tan EETPU umbrella, it should now fall to the IET to take back control of the whole process. The IET should be able to offer enhanced levels of promotion, career growth and employment protection to all its Members, just as the BMA does for the Medical Profession. This will be of significant benefit to the Engineering Profession, IET Members and Student Apprentices. It will also be invaluable to Employers and for the general information and ongoing public promotion of the profession. Professional Engineering is probably the most fascinating and intellectually rewarding career that any student or school leaver can choose, and the pay is good too!

FOOTNOTE: At his The Future of Engineering Lecture given on 3rd July 2019 at the University of Hertford, Dr Peter Bonfield asked the audience to suggest potential areas of concentration that he might consider as he prepares for his year as President of the IET. Well here is my developed suggestion - as already touched on during the feedback Q&A session after his 3rd July presentation.

Re: Should the IET take charge of Professional Engineering Remuneration and Emloyment Matters following the Demise of UKAPE?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Sep 4, 2019 9:35 am

Malcolm, I have been “caught out” many times by posting only to later spot errors. When you post, those in the discussion thread get an email of that post. So I got an e-mail of yours on Friday which it seemed that you may have subsequently deleted. It now becomes clear that you started a new thread instead. I wrote a response to the e-mailed post and have added some additional material now having read yours complete.  Without white space your post is a difficult read.  

I’m sure that there would be many who are sympathetic to at least some of this, including myself but with some reservations.

I fully agree that evidence of high earnings being achieved  by Chartered Engineers is good for the profession. However, the profession focussed for many decades on excluding from chartered “status” many of those who were equally able and productive on academic grounds.  So for example, I worked with a division of a major technology leading employer a few years ago, where most of the senior engineering leaders didn’t meet the “academic requirements” for chartership. Engineering Council had ultimately felt obliged to offer concessions to the most senior among them, since without these leaders as “role models”, why would others lower down the corporate hierarchy feel the need to register.  There are many other reasons why those who might be eligible for such recognition, even with degrees like MEng have eschewed the proposition. 

By coincidence, driving to work on Monday, there was a report on the radio about Teacher salaries.  So for comparison are we suggesting that a Chartered Engineer compares only with a Head Teacher or Head of Department in a major secondary school and are “the rest” some form of  junior associate or (heaven forbid) “unqualified teacher”?  Many engineers become Chartered from the age of 25-30 , although many also tend to delay by another decade, because it seems like a very “middle aged thing” to do. After all the average age of the existing cohort is around 60.

It seems to me that we cannot consistently express what our career proposition is and therefore focus on the relative status of some engineers compared to others. If we measured earnings instead, we would find that in certain sectors the correlation between having followed a prescribed academic pathway in early career and gaining superior earnings is far from clear.  In a sector where I worked as a senior manager, the few “chartered engineer type” career paths plateaued at about the level that I was at, the MD was an engineer (via HNC not CEng) , because in the end commercial acumen was more valuable than specialist technical expertise.  Most senior level engineers report to accountants!

I understand that many Chartered Engineers would prefer to use medicine or law as points of comparison, rather than teaching or nursing (gender balance a factor perhaps?). If we could achieve greater unity and clarity, especially around career progression, which occurs in engineering because it isn’t “closed” like some other professions at university admission, or by the social capital needed to gain a graduate training place. In discussion with a CEng colleague recently he opined that like medicine we should all be “doctors” with “consultants” being CEng. UK medical salaries are of course determined by the NHS, although the market including international demand is obvious in play.    

I recall some years ago following remarks by a government minister about the potential earnings of plumbers, how SMEs and industry training organisations were suddenly inundated with applications for plumbing apprenticeships to the extent that competition was compared to gaining Oxbridge admission.  I would support surveys that give accurate insight and help for people in choosing career pathways and personal development.  However, as I commented earlier many such surveys are conducted with an aim in mind, such as “Chartered Engineers earn more than others”, which may be partly true in some circumstances?  If the research came to a different conclusion like “plumbers earn more than chartered engineers” then it would be binned (some do most don’t).  https://www.theengineer.co.uk/engineering-salaries-send-a-worrying-message-to-the-top-graduates/

I cannot usefully comment on UKAPE, although I was during my early career a member and voluntary elected official of the EETPU (now Unite) and also later following promotion the EPEA (now Prospect). At the time union membership was a condition of employment (a “closed shop”).  I also transferred from IEEIE to ASEE, because my EPEA subscription which was compulsory covered ASEE membership as well.  That was removed by “reforms” of the late 1980s legally separating the role of a “learned society” from that of a “trades union”.  I would not consider myself well informed about the BMA  or medicine generally and perhaps someone who is could explore that angle.  However, the employment of medical professionals in the UK is very different to engineers, because the overwhelming majority are employed by a “nationalised industry” the NHS. Teachers likewise.  Many Technicians and Engineers are also employed either directly by the public sector or as contractors under that influence. The MOD for example is a major player in professional registration, especially the Eng Tech and IEng categories.     

Some of the reasons why IET has to tread very carefully here might include; its international nature, charitable status, reputation for impartiality and employer support. However, I do think that we have a legitimate role in seeking to enhance the value of engineers and technicians.


To end on a controversial note, I would opine that we have long undermined this by our “neediness” for status, which only leads to endless arguments about the relative status of different types of professionals.  Perhaps this is the lot of a “learned society” to ration out our esteem to the most “learned” or “distinguished”.  I would much prefer that we focussed on performance, productivity and contribution to society, all of which will potentially enhance the earnings of engineers and assuage their “neediness” for status.  Being needy for status only leads to the creation of relatively petty hierarchies, which obviously deter from participation most of those who are classified as “lower” or who don’t find such attitudes to their taste.       
 

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