The Government has sparked a debate over the future role of the Engineering Council, following science and innovation minister Lord Sainsbury’s announcement of a review of the organisation’s activities last week.
The study will be conducted by Dr Robert Hawley, the council’s chairman, in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry. They will look at the contribution the council has made to the profession and how its activities might be improved.
Malcolm Shirley, director-general of the council, said it must adapt to the changing world of engineering and consolidate its position to ensure its continuing relevance, and that of the profession, within the burgeoning industry.
`It is about ensuring that correct standards are maintained within the profession, without being too exclusive,’ he said.
The Engineering Council, the lead body for the profession, is responsible for regulating and promoting engineering. Shirley accepted it had not been successful enough in the past.
`We recognise it could be done better. If we are not drawing enough young people into the profession then we need to explore ways to do so more effectively.’
Claire Curtis-Thomas, the Labour MP for Crosby and a member of the council’s senate, said the organisation needed to reassert itself and to speak for the wider engineering community.
Under the current system only members of the 35 recognised engineering institutions and trade associations are represented on the council.
`There are around 3 million people involved in engineering, and only around 300,000 of these are members of an institution or trade body,’ she said. `The Engineering Council should adopt a far broader remit in terms of representing engineering.’
Trevor Evans, chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, supported the review but said the council needed to refocus its activities in order to best serve the interests of the engineering community.