Thursday, 28 August 2014
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Recognition impossible?

There used to be a British Gas advert that really annoyed me. After a small dispute with them we switched providers but they kept trying to get us back using aggressive cold-calling tactics. I told them to stop many times, but it took ages. Then they used some music in their adverts that I disliked (Queen, One Vision, if you’re interested). The final insult, however, was that they referred to their fitters as engineers. For a long time I thought they were wrong to do that, but I think I have changed my mind now.

The Engineering Council proclaims that it “continually works to increase recognition of our engineering professionals”.  Their website also states that, “Commonplace use of the word engineer in our language has evolved over many centuries. Hence anyone in the UK may describe themselves as an engineer. Seeking to regulate or legislate on the use of a now common term is recognised by the Engineering Council as totally impractical.”

I’m not going to dwell on this other than to say that I don’t actually believe it and that perhaps the only way to gain traction for the idea would be if we all stopped paying our subscriptions to the Engineering Council. If we took them to the brink of bankruptcy, it might force them to take action.

Most readers are probably familiar with the story, that when school children were asked to name a famous engineer they came up with Kevin Webster, the car mechanic in Coronation Street. 

Now, when the IMechE offered IEng and EngTech (in addition to CEng) I thought that they were just looking for more subscriptions. But what if we used the fact that Kevin Webster is our most famous ‘engineer’ to our advantage? What if we could get registration as EngTech as a requirement to be an MOT inspector and as a pre-requisite for registration on the Good Garage Scheme?

If we could get Coronation Street to mention the need for IMechE registration in a storyline, the advertising would be incredible. What if EngTech was a requirement for registration on the Gas Safe (formally CORGI) scheme and for the NICEIC scheme for electricians?Increasing awareness of the institutions, and professional recognition generally, can surely only be a good thing. Then we might refine the definitions of EngTech, IEng and CEng to something a bit more tangible (the Engineering Council definitions are somewhat esoteric).

I propose: EngTech fixes things, IEng designs things and CEng is in charge of designing things (or designs really new stuff).  Then we might start to make a connection. I think the general public probably understands that it takes a Kevin Webster type engineer to fix their car, but different types of engineer to design and build it in the first place.

British Gas has now stopped cold-calling and I don’t mind the A-team music, so all we need to do is to get the institutions or Engineering Council to work with British Gas to get their fitters registered as EngTechs and then their adverts won’t bother me at all.


Readers' comments (9)

  • 'Engineer' has the same base as 'ingenuity'. Rather than "show me your certificate", ask to be shown what the claimed 'engineer' has done in the world of machines. Rightly, more members of the public can recognise real ingenuity than can identify institutional designations.

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  • If employers recognised the benefit of CEng, IEng and EngTech as a form of employee quality standard they might start to stipulate these forms of recognition when recruiting. Maybe the Engineering Council should turn their efforts in this direction and encourage employers to recognise professional qualifications as part of renumeration packages. If professional registration is seen as a benefit then more 'so-called engineers' would seek to qualify and, as a consequence, Britains engineering skills gap may start to narrow and the status of 'engineer' may improve.

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  • Then perhaps we require a new, protected title for anyone who is chartered. Something that one could use when introducing oneself at a dinner party when the question arises, "so, what do you do?"

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  • If I reply to the party guests "Oh I am Director of Engineering for xxxx Company" they might have some idea. However if I replied "I am a PE, Charted Engineer or some similar Title, they may well ask again, Well what to you do?
    The question is never ending.

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  • "I take the vision which comes from dreams and apply the magic of science and mathematics, adding the heritage of my profession to create a design. I organise the efforts and skills of my fellow workers employing the capital of the thrifty and the products of many industries, and together we work towards our goal undaunted by hazards and obstacles. And when we have completed our task all can see that the dreams and plans have materialised for the comfort and welfare of all. I am an engineer. I serve mankind by making dreams come true ".

    ( Found pinned to a site hut during the construction of the Konkan Railway )

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  • I had to renew my driving licence recently and in the box marked Title I inserted my designation of Eur. Ing. It took three phone calls from Cardiff and a letter to get the department to recognise my EU recognised and correct title as even existent. I had the same trouble with the passport authorities. Both documents (and my old age bus pass) now carry my correct title. What really bugs me, however, is that despite having been told both verbally and by telephone of my correct title, several of the Engineering Institutions to which I belong insist on addressing letters to me as Mr.

    A number of these boxes on various websites give the options of Mr. Miss, Rev. Dr. etc but NONE of them, including those who ought to know better, give the option of Eur. Ing. Why?

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  • So much whingeing and self importance going on here. Make a properly qualified Engineer in any of the recognized Engineering disciplines a "Doctor". e.g. Dr John Doe, Eur. Ing etal...
    I am not a qualified Engineer, but I do claim some intelligence and common sense and in many roles in Purchasing it was sometimes impossible to persuage so-called 'engineers' to look at design from a different perspective.

    In one instance it took myself, our Production Engineer and one of our suppliers to rationalise a metal frame design to reduce weight and cost by 50%, double the stiffness and increase the accuracy of mounting positions to 100%. Our so-called Design engineers refused to acknowledge any deficiency in their original design (& which always required Hammer assisted assembly). This is not an isolated case in my 40-odd years of mainly engineering related Purchasing.

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  • If I read a book, I do not ask,is the writer qualified? If I see a well engineered piece of equipment, must I reject it if the constructor has not an engineering degree.
    An engineer is someone who engineers.

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  • As I have invited ten year's worth of undergraduates to do:
    simply use a CAPITAL letter for Engineer, Engineering and by so doing encourage the public perception that we who manipulate Nature's Laws are entitled to E and those who fulfil our designs and instructions have 'e'.
    Best
    Mike B

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  • Unfortunately, as sticklers for grammar and punctuation, The Engineer team cannot endorse this.

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