Disgruntled British Aerospace engineers this week wrote to the professional institutions to complain about the ‘misuse’ of the word engineer in job titles in the company’s military aircraft division.
Their concern follows an 18-month job evaluation exercise across BAe’s aerostructures and military aircraft division, with the aim of rationalising the number of job titles from 2,000 to 500.
The engineers claim that the number of non-technically qualified buyers given titles such as ‘procurement engineer’ has increased. They also say jobs such as ‘logistics engineer’ and ‘business support engineer’, with mainly administrative or clerical duties, have been created. Some of these entail producing job cards detailing how components are to be routed through a machine shop, and chasing progress.
A source said that professionally qualified engineers in the military division are ‘disgusted’ about a perceived erosion of their status.
ABAe manager, who asked not to be named, confirmed that engineers are concerned. ‘The jobs evaluation exercise has framed attention on the issue,’ he said.
But a BAe spokesman said he had no knowledge of concern among engineers, and that non-technical procurement engineers had always existed in the firm. ‘Logistics engineer’ posts were held by ‘predominantly technical’ staff, he said, and the job evaluation exercise had been carried out with staff and union involvement.
Neither side produced any hard evidence on the relative numbers before and after the job evaluation exercise of non-technical staff with ‘engineer’ job titles.
Ironically, the concern has arisen when BAe is closely involved, at board level, in talks with the Engineering Council, the Engineering Employers’ Federation and EMTA on the proposed engineering image campaign.
Malcolm Shirley, the Engineering Council’s director-general, said the reports seemed to fly in the face of an internal BAe policy to do more to recognise engineers’ contributions. He added: ‘The council is at pains to get better usage of the word engineer. There are examples everywhere where the term is misused. It would be more helpful if employers used the right terminology.’
The Engineering Council and the institutions are considering whether to push for stricter controls of the term ‘engineer’, as is the case with ‘solicitor’ and ‘doctor’.