Profession opens doors to 2 million

The engineering profession is set to create what could become a vast new technology lobbying and services organisation catering for up to two million people.

The engineering profession is set to throw in its lot with the wider world of scientists and technologists to create what could become a vast new technology lobbying and services organisation catering for up to two million people.

The blueprint for this new grouping was delivered this week by the Engineering Council to science minister Lord Sainsbury in the form of a 10-page report. It contains 40 recommendations to address what many in industry see as the declining relevance of the professional engineering institutions and the Engineering Council itself, the profession’s umbrella body.

The new organisation will grow out of the existing Engineering Council, which looks set to change its name and drop the word ‘engineering’. Details of how the new organisation will operate will be drawn up by next Easter, following intensive consultation in the New Year.

Membership of the Engineering Council is around 260,000 engineers, a figure estimated to represent only 12–15% of the total number of people in technology jobs. Around 300,000 engineers are not registered with the Council, while a further 1.4m work in scientific and technology-led careers.

All are being targeted as possible ‘customers’ of the expanded organisation. Research conducted over the last two months has shown broad support for such a grouping, both within and outside the existing engineering community.

It also revealed that despite past efforts to modernise and grow, existing professional engineering institutions are still seen as being rooted in ‘old thinking’ and ‘irrelevance’. The research also found that the Engineering Council was almost unknown outside its existing membership.

As well as continuing its existing links with institutions, the new body will bring in more representatives from industry, and work closely with related groups, such as the British Association for the Avancement of Science. However, funding arrangements have not yet been drawn up.

The report was commissioned by Lord Sainsbury and drawn up by the Hawley Group of industrialists, civil servants and insiders from the engineering profession, led by Engineering Council chairman, Robert Hawley.

Report highlights

Education: A limited number of universities ‘could form the nucleus of a new category of technical university specialising in the provision of engineering and technology graduates to business’.

Continuing professional development: The focus should switch from technology updates to business and communications skills and multidisciplinary learning.

Standards: The new organisation should be able to help companies identify whether contractors have the required technical skills — implying more widespread audits of technology qualifications.

Marketing: The aim will be to join forces with other organisations within the science and technology community to add impact and reduce costs and duplication in promoting technology careers.