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Youngest Chartered Engineers

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Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Mark Tickner on Feb 14, 2019 10:13 am

Having received the latest copy of Member News, I noted that there was an article about the new youngest CEng.  Now, obviously it isn’t a race to get CEng and it doesn’t really matter at what age you achieve it.

But it did tweak my interest to wonder what the ages (not names, let’s keep some privacy) of the, say, 16 youngest people to achieve CEng was.  Assuming the IET kept that type of information.  I don’t suppose that this information is available?

I’d imagine it would be a challenge to get the youngest age that much more under 26.  If a 3 year BEng can be compressed to 2 years, then possibly a MEng can be compressed down to 3.  Assuming a compressed degree could achieve accreditation then that might lower it another year.  However, the competences take as long as they take and it’s about being in the right place and grabbing the right opportunities.
Mark Tickner MEng (Hons) CEng MIET MINCOSE

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Kenneth McNaught on Feb 15, 2019 1:01 pm

To Mark's point, and recognising this is NOT a competition, but I gained chartered status at 25 years and 3 months, back in the mid 90s. It was helped by a very intense training period and early exposure to positions of high responsibility. I then went on to gain Eur Ing status a year later whilst working in Paris on a tri-national programme.
Ken McNaught

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Mark Tickner on Feb 15, 2019 1:10 pm

I recall going to a Younger Member's committee training event (followed by Lecture and Dinner) in the mid 90's and there was a newly awarded CEng who was presented as being the youngest at that point.  I wonder if that was you, Ken?
Mark Tickner MEng (Hons) CEng MIET MINCOSE

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Feb 15, 2019 5:44 pm

The youngest I have encountered within the IET was only 4 Days past his 25th birthday when registered. The PRI Interview having been held some weeks earlier. I have seen a 24 year old in Engineering Council Statistics but I don’t know anything about that story.

Our CEng applied for a level 3 Technician Apprenticeship at the age of 17 and left school to take it up, on a promise from his employer to support his progression.  He completed an NVQ2, NVQ3, ONC, HNC, BEng 1st Class Hons and MSc with Distinction over a period of 7 years by part-time/distance learning. He was appointed as a “junior” engineer after the four year apprenticeship, then moved for promotion to another employer in the sector two years later.

Clearly such a pathway is intensive and would have involved long-hours, sacrifices and self-discipline, but he wasn’t constrained by the “leisurely” timetable of a full-time academic programme.

I have also come across an example of someone who qualified as an contracting electrician before becoming a full-time student, thus being able to support themselves comfortably and continuing to gain experience by part-time work.  I don’t have the details of their registration age, but they were much better placed than a graduate with no experience and made rapid progress. I anticipate that if Engineering Degree Apprenticeships grow in the way that the Government hopes, this mid-twenties milestone will become more common again. Many years ago the age of 25 was “suggested” as a minimum (Age 18 + 3yr Degree + 2 Years Initial Professional Development + 2 years Responsible Experience).  There were 2-3000 CEng under 30 the last time I looked. I saw a GP the other day and he seemed under 30.

If you’re good enough you’re old enough!  There are many young and not so young engineers, who think of CEng as an “honour for distinguished achievement”, awarded in middle age, when it is intended to be a threshold milestone, achievable after around 7-8 years of learning and experience.              


Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Kenneth McNaught on Feb 18, 2019 9:00 am

I absolutely endorse the sentiments in Roy's last para. Capability is a far better measure than so-called experience. I am fortunate to work with some outstanding young engineers, but also get frustrated with some older people that seem to have forgotten much of their learning, or at least choose not to put it into practise.

Mark, I don't think it was me at that dinner as I suspect I was in Paris at that time building "entente cordial"! :)
Ken McNaught

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Cheong Tsoi on Mar 13, 2019 8:10 am

In my region, all Chatered Engineers in the government were attained the status by 25 years old. Because they were graduate engineers at 21 years old, and promote to Assistant Engineers in 2 years, and apply for Chartered Engineers in another 2 years. They got promoted to Engineers, and their salaries are doubled compares to Assistant Engineer posts.....:-)

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 15, 2019 9:35 am

Thanks Cheong,

It is interesting how different “norms” and expectations have become established around the same milestone.  The situation that you describe of gaining CEng around four years into career following an accredited degree reflects the experience of a substantial proportion of Chartered Engineers. Some of the “high-flyers” have taken this as a foundation/benchmark on which to build a career in corporate management, the law or another related field. By tradition we don’t ask them to keep proving their detailed technical skills, we have welcomed their ongoing contribution as “engineers by training”. However for many years now the average age of a new CEng registrant has been late thirties (ie a “20 year veteran”), so the experience of a significant proportion of Chartered Engineer registrants this century is different.  

I haven’t conducted a formal study of this, but the trend creates issues and difficulties around consistency that I won’t explore here.  What I have suggested is that we try to “normalise” the idea that every aspiring engineer should seek to professionally benchmark themselves by the age of 25 at the latest. For some that would lead to the award of Chartered Engineer and for others a development plan would be needed ,perhaps with a form of recognition "banked".  At present some are encouraged by their employer to gain CEng, some just drift along meaning to get round to it eventually and some just assume that they will be rejected because they “don’t have the right degree” or “aren’t posh enough” etc.  Some professional institutions seem rather better than others at getting members chartered at earlier ages, which creates inconsistency and potential iniquity.                 


Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Lee Nelson on Mar 15, 2019 12:54 pm

Roy Bowdler:
Some professional institutions seem rather better than others at getting members chartered at earlier ages, which creates inconsistency and potential iniquity.                 

I'm interested in why you believe this Roy. We are always told that CEng is awarded on competence, not by age or time served, so why does it create inconsistency and potential iniquity?

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Simon Barker on Mar 15, 2019 1:19 pm

Engineering is an oddity when it comes to professional registration.

Most professions have a well-defined path to registration.  It will probably combine a mixture of an academic course and structured on-the-job training.  These could be sequential or mixed together.

Engineering has BEng and MEng degrees, but then it stops.  People go out into the world of industry and start doing stuff.  They get whatever training their employer is willing to pay for.  So instead of structured training, we get UKSpec, which essentially says that you're qualified to be a Chartered Engineer once you are already doing the things that Chartered Engineers do.  That might be within 5 years of graduating, or it might be never.  And if you are already doing the things that Chartered Engineers do, then actually applying for it is just an excuse to get a "badge" - it doesn't actually allow you to do anything you weren't already doing.

Thinking about it, a similar thing goes for management.  There is such a thing as a Chartered Manager, but I wonder what proportion of managers ever bother to apply.

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Mar 15, 2019 2:19 pm

Lee Nelson:

Roy Bowdler:
Some professional institutions seem rather better than others at getting members chartered at earlier ages, which creates inconsistency and potential iniquity.                 

I'm interested in why you believe this Roy. We are always told that CEng is awarded on competence, not by age or time served, so why does it create inconsistency and potential iniquity?
I won't give names or dates, but I have heard that a young engineer applied to their Institution for CEng and was told "you are too young". The therefore applied to be a member of another Institution and applied for CEng and was able to become CEng at an age below the minimum required in the original Institution. As Roy said, some professional institutions seem rather better than others.

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 15, 2019 5:08 pm

Lee I see that others , have answered your question.

To keep it simple many Chartered Engineer recognitions are awarded by completion of academic qualifications, followed by some training, followed by some responsibility, with a final check that all the UK-SPEC competences have been addressed. Professional Institutions may accredit each of these steps and conduct the final assessment.  If you are fortunate enough to be admitted to an accredited degree programme and then gain employment with an employer who has accredited their training with a professional institution, then you can reasonably expect with average diligence to be CEng by 25 to 27.

To borrow a golfing metaphor, this is the fairway. Minor mishits may result in having to hack out of a bunker, but if you deviate from the fairway the grass gets longer and eventually becomes a jungle. For many years “out of bounds” was close to the edge of the fairway and there was a 10 year penalty for being out of bounds, after which you could be allowed back if the captain passed your stroke as suitable on the practice ground. Things have become a little more forgiving in recent years. So if you are coached to successfully stay on the fairway for a round, then you are deemed OK for life.  If you didn’t get into the club, or get the right coaching, then you risk a very long round or possibly being excluded altogether. First impressions are important!  In the context of this analogy, competence is the score, so completing the course is a starting measure, but how many over par is allowed, is a handicap system in operation, is there a dress code, equipment restrictions, local rules and unofficial concessions agreed between players? Everyone can stand back and admire the very top pros, but many of the average players may feel that they haven’t had  a fair rub of the green when the prizes are given out.

My suggestion was simply to ensure that every member gets some instruction and coaching then works on improving their game. Once they can play to a reasonable standard we recognise them as proper players and encourage them to improve some more. We can set the score required to be considered a “master” wherever we choose, but if we make it too difficult and belittle those who haven’t made that mark, then they will stop playing and the club will no longer be credible or viable.  

When I first learned about competence, an example used was the driving test, where you were expected to demonstrate a specified standard of performance under reasonably controlled conditions, but how you reached that that standard wasn’t prescribed. What we have is a hybrid form, with different examiners placing the emphasis in different areas, or allowed to introduce some extras of their own.  What Chartered Engineers do is complex and enormously varied, so a system has been evolved to measure it in a simplified way.  It seems to work reasonably well on the whole for people who clearly deserve to be recognised through following an ideal pathway, but there are many uncertainties otherwise.  

We wouldn’t have debated all of this for generations if the answer was a simple one , but wherever a perception of winners and losers is introduced , ill feeling won’t be far away.  Also if something doesn’t seem to have “face validity” then people won’t trust it.  So for example, if an employer is told that someone that they consider to be their best engineer is actually in PEI eyes their worst, because different attributes are given different value, then an obvious gap exists. In earlier more deferential times, most people just accepted qualifications at face value, or if even they didn’t, they had no means of arguing.

I don't think the intent of this thread was to generate this type of debate, so I will just reiterate my earlier comment "if you're good enough then you'r old enough". So to any 25 year old aspiring to Chartered Engineer - Good luck! As was said earlier this isn't a race, but its good to set challenging goals. We just don't all have to get round Amen Corner without dropping a shot 😉.             

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Cheong Tsoi on Mar 16, 2019 7:14 am

Dear Roy,
I remember that you are an IEng (if my memory is correct!).
And you are a FIET!
Will you apply for CEng? I am just curious to ask you this question and wonder what you think and reply to us! :-)
I see your English and presentation are really good!
And I think you hold senior position in The IET.
Do you want to challenge yourself to apply for CEng? :-)

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 16, 2019 1:53 pm


I don't think that I have ever demonstrated the standard required of a Chartered Engineer.

At the time when I was closest about 15 years into my career, I didn't meet the "academic requirement" so wouldn't have been eligible and already held IEng which seemed to be well-respected in my work situation. As that situation evolved it became clear that a more senior management role would be a better target and I was able to migrate in that direction.  To support that I completed a part-time MSc and became Chartered (FCIPD) . The IET predecessor Institution that I was a member of, required Fellows to have a minimum of 5 years management responsibility and invited me to apply in 1995. By coincidence I also started my MBA that year. I also completed a Diploma in Safety Management to help my company at one stage, but only kept the professional institution membership going for a few years when that need dissipeared.

By coincidence I used to play golf and may do so again in future, but never put enough practice in to get my handicap below 20, or felt the need to join a more prestigious club. 

To the extent that it is relevant to this discussion, I would consider myself to have a portfolio of skills, attributes and capabilities which includes engineering. My advice to any young engineer demonstrating CEng  is to register soon, because if you move into management and become "impure" , then it may become more difficult later. The world as seen through the eyes of those who have controlled access to CEng, values deep specialisation more than generalism. How important being CEng registered is to you, may depend on which circles you move in, but if it is a realistic prospect then take it when you can. 

One of the difficulties that we face is that those who stay strongly technical prefer CEng to be seen as a career "pinnacle", whereas for those who build a career on engineering it is a "milestone" or "launchpad".  I think both pathways are equally valuable, but I don't know how we resolve this tension?     


Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Lee Nelson on Mar 18, 2019 1:59 pm

Roy, your golfing and driving examiner analogies left me totally baffled, so I'll just take your quote "if you're good enough then you'r old enough" to sum up your opinion!

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Mar 18, 2019 3:33 pm

On the other hand I liked your golf and driving test analogies and thought them very suitable. I think that as a volunteer PRA I understand the registration process well and so can see the parallels but others may struggle to understand.

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Mar 20, 2019 8:40 am

Lee, I’m not sure whether I should thank you for adding me to the pantheon of those who have conspicuously failed to explain the issue satisfactorily, or for reminding me of my own limitations and/or the use of metaphor as a form of explanation. I’m ill-suited the first group, so I’ll accept my failure graciously.😞

Professor John Uff, a distinguished Chartered Engineer who also went on to become a Barrister in his twenties, suggested in his major report that there may be three million potentially eligible professional registrants in the UK who have not chosen to engage. As far as Chartered Engineer is concerned, research has shown that only a minority of those who are potentially “qualified” have chosen to register.  Arguably they have also failed to understand? Alternatively perhaps they have and don't like the message?   

We can’t change the past, so we can only make progress from where we are.  Here is an example of another attempt to explain https://www.newcivilengineercareers.com/article/chartered-engineering-vs-incorporated-engineering/            
If it is any consolation Chartered Accountancy is also unclear https://www.icslearn.co.uk/blog/posts/2018/july/accountancy-qualifications-how-to-choose-the-right-course-for-you/

I would like to see every young person who begins a career in Engineering and Technology welcomed into our professional community. I would define this “beginning” as commencing a formal apprenticeship or enrolling on programme of study leading to our threshold of recognition or beyond.  We should then offer support and impartial advice about career development.  As these people gain employment experience and opportunities they will pass a threshold that we have codified as an Engineer or Technician. We should help to validate and recognise that.  We want our terminal threshold for the most fully developed Engineers (CEng) to be benchmarked at post-graduate standard and we don’t think that competence can be achieved without circa 4-5 years in employment, so it is rare to find anyone under the age of 25 and common to find Chartered Engineers aged 25-30.      

At present, most Professional Engineering Institutions don’t offer “impartial” advice, they seek successors in their own image, which for them is as an elite fraction of engineers, based on early academic selection and subsequent specialisation.  This model has some merits, but it leaves many gaps, where there isn’t an attractive proposition to a competent person of good character. On the more negative side it also helps to create a narrative based on academic snobbery, in which anything other than Chartered Engineer or a prescribed pathway towards it is diminished and disrespected.  

The IET has certainly made progress with our emphasis on competence and  packages of support such as “Signature” and “Advantage”, but I would like us to make more. We still accept assumptions based on the unreliable ground of selection by teenage aptitude for complex mathematics and scientific theory. Because most Engineers and Technicians disengage with academia by the age of 23, it is in my opinion premature to place them into silos by that time.  

Perhaps we should just invite every 25 year old Engineer or advancing Technician to participate in a professional review? At that point I would like to see three options “Engineer”, “Chartered Engineer” and “development feedback”.  I wouldn’t mind an option like “master technician” to emphasise the importance and value of professional technicians.

I’m sorry if some people might think that this is either complex or simplistically utopian. Yes it does mean that if “you’re good enough you’re old enough”. Our standards have only ever been intended as a threshold on which to build a career further.

Engineers and Technicians will become optimised for different roles at different speeds, depending on aptitude, commitment and opportunity. Our role should be to nurture them, by offering stretching but achievable goals, relevant to employer's needs. If that requires something beyond “proficiency” then we should be discussing that, not trying to aggrandise CEng at the expense of other professionals. Fellowship is an obvious contender. Are we using that in the right way?    


Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Andy Millar on Apr 2, 2019 11:15 am

Looking back, with the benefit of my PRA and Mentoring experience, I could probably have achieved Chartership (if I'd been interested then) at the age of 27 given good advice, and could have sailed through at the age of 29. As my career had had a few false starts by that point, the age range 24-25 seems perfectly reasonable.

Simon mentions Chartered Manager. The CMI magazine regularly describes 25 year old company directors for significant businesses. That's just as challenging (for the examples I'm thinking of) as CEng - in many ways more so.

Personally I see three reasons why we don't see more 25 year old CEngs, sort of as alluded above:
  1. Lack of interest within that age group
  2. Lack of understanding of the wider professional role amongst early career engineers
  3. Poor advice from employers, particularly the idea that you must be a manager (or at least project manager) before you can apply
I'm going to let others debate point 1, I know why I wasn't interested until my mid 30's but everyone's different.

Point 3 I know the IET is trying to address, but it shouldn't underestimate the huge amount more it needs to do!

Point 2 is the one I'm particularly interested in, and I think ties in well with Roy's thoughts. As I repeatedly say, one of the huge benefits of the professional registration process is - or should be - that it makes the candidate think about their holistic role as an engineer. As I've just posted somewhere else, engineering operates within the wider society, and showing that engineers can think beyond the screen in front of them and consider their colleagues, customers, and beyond is what makes a fully rounded professional engineer. Which is what the registration grades capture. Wouldn't it be good if as well as recognising 50 year old engineers for what they've learned through bitter experience (and through getting it badly wrong at everyone's expense) we encouraged graduate engineers to start developing these wider skills from day 1 of industrial experience? 

Or, to flip it around, for the graduate who immediately decides to dive straight into project management, making sure that they make a continuous effort to keep in touch with the technology they are managing? 

I suppose that supports the IMechE model of continuous review and benchmarking against the relevant professional reg criteria over a period of 2-3 years up to registration, which could start immediately post graduate or (I assume) during undergrad work experience or during an apprentice programme. So we can end up with 25 year old engineers who are innovative, have a sound technical basis, but are also actually able to talk to (and listen to) someone outside their own discipline! (Is the IMechE model I'm think of "MPDS"?)

Now there's real value the IET could add to the world of engineering. Personally I think the formal IMechE model is too cumbersome for many employers, particularly small employers. However, far more effort in promoting Mentoring / PRA services to very early career engineers should have significant benefits for everyone - engineers, employers, customers and wider society. 

Coming back to Simon's point of "how many managers are CMgr" - in my experience very few. Most of those I meet are consultants who need that extra accreditation. (Of course it might just be that they're the ones that go to CMI meetings - it's great fun at these watching the consultants all hoping to find clients and just finding other consultants! I have an evil sense of humour sometimes.) A somewhat similar tale to my experience of CEngs. Which is a shame - for both groups - as the rest are missing an opportunity to look outside the narrow confines of their day job and gain wider skills and knowledge. At whatever age. 

Here's a dream. The norm to be that all engineers / technicians hold one of the professional registration grades at the age of 25.


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

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Apr 2, 2019 11:59 am

I think your points 1 and 2 are actually linked. The reason there is a lack of interest in that age group is probably because of the lack of understanding of the wider professional role amongst early career engineers.
Another point worth considering is how information are engineering students (university, college, etc.) given about professional registration, never mind the sixth form students choosing their career. I have to admit that I was blissfully unaware of CEng registration until I started on a graduate scheme and others on the scheme were talking about their intention to gain CEng and then leave (though admittedly many who said that were still working alongside me in the same company quarter of a century later....). I was by that time pushing 30 (having had a different route to a degree but having come through an industry where registration was not common). It still took my manager a while to persuade me to submit my application as I wanted to be sure I had enough experience to be confident I would be successful - in retrospect he was probably right that I could have applied several years before I did.
The IMechE system (MPDS - Mentored Professional Development Scheme) has some advantages over the IET approach as it requires candidates to self assess and complete quarterly reports, but in other respects I find it too restrictive as I tend to tell candidates that they should be reporting what they are doing but the frequency of reporting needs to align with what they are learning - a scheme where they are spending a few weeks in each of six different departments probably needs much more frequent reporting than a year long stint in one department, but the MPDS model treats both the same. At work we use the IMechE approach, partly because the Mechanical Engineers make up the largest group but probably mainly because the IMechE provide Mentor training for free.
I agree about promoting mentoring/PRA services but it needs to be done from two sides - promote the availability and advantages of using the services but also encourage newly registered engineers to volunteer for these roles so that the increased uptake can be accommodated.

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Andy Millar on Apr 3, 2019 12:30 pm

Yes, I nearly mentioned we need more young PRAs and Mentors! (My train arrived at Paddington so I needed to come to a close.) Thanks for adding that, I think it's very much a "virtuous circle" - the more the average age of the registered professionals is driven down, the more the average age of PRAs and Mentors - and indeed Council - will hopefully also be driven down and the more representative the IET is likely to be of practicing engineers, which should attract more recent graduates...

Personally I'm not that keen on MPDS, similarly to your feelings I think it can result in false targets being set just to achieve targets (and then embarrassment all round when they're not met because the candidate has been asked to work on something different), but I think there's the germ of an idea there - the idea that there is a regular questioning of whether early career engineers are making sure they're developing all the professional registration competences. (Needs their managers to buy into this as well!)

Yes, I only know about it because my company put me through the IMechE mentor training because it was free! (IET please note...) Although I believe IET Mentor training is free to IET Mentors, just not to internal mentors on company schemes.  

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

Re: Youngest Chartered Engineers

Posted by Kathryn Bain on Apr 5, 2019 4:05 pm

Hi Andy and Alasdair,

I've read your comments with interest, especially around developing engineers and mentoring - in large part because following a brief secondment in Registration & Standards, I'll be heading back to look after the candidate support services (in IPD and Mentoring) after the Easter break.

Career Manager allows for self-assessment, in a similar way as MPDS, although the IET do not have a formal monitoring of this the IMechE do in part because of the restrictive nature and wider audience that the IET support and the increased number of candidates that we see with non-exemplifying qualifications that therefore have to undertake some element of work based learning along side their competence development.  Candidates can still use Career Manager in this way, and I would be interested if you think there would be benefit in providing more structure to this, or more guidance on this.

In terms of mentor training, I may be wrong but my understanding on the free mentor training that the IMechE offer, is around how the Career Developer system and MPDS system work rather than mentoring skills training and understanding of professional registration.  As Career Manager, the Career Developer equivalent, is free to all members to use and there are extensive guidance documents and video tutorials on how to use this we consider this as being an alternative for mentors supporting members in the system.  The Mentor Training the IET offer is much more around training mentors in the process of mentoring, and I understand that the IMechE charge for thier similar course in this area as well.

In terms of candidates support and bringing down the age at which members apply (assuming of course that they have developed the underpinning knowledge and understanding and competences required) is something we're always looking for ideas on progressing so feel free to drop me an e-mail at: profdev@theiet.org if you have any ideas.
Kathryn Bain, Senior Product Advisor (Initial Professional Development and Mentoring), The Institution of Engineering & Technology, (IET Staff) Any views are my own views and do not necessarily represent those of the IET


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