Levelling the playing field

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

The young student truly believed that the more qualifications he obtained, the more successful he would be in life. So, after working long and hard to obtain his first-class honours degree in engineering, he enrolled on another four-year course to acquire his doctorate, after which he became a member of several prestigious learned societies.

Having acquired a plethora of qualifications, the engineer set up his own engineering consultancy, assured that he had enough knowledge to assist any number of companies with the design and development of any new product they might ask him to undertake.

But after registering his consultancy and hiring out some office space from which to conduct his business, he was in for a big shock. During the course of promoting his numerous academic qualifications on his business cards and website, he was sent a letter from a semi-autonomous government organisation informing him that he was acting illegally.

That’s right. The letter from the semi-autonomous government organisation informed him in no uncertain terms that no engineering consultants were allowed to demonstrate to its clients that they had any more than a basic undergraduate engineering degree in engineering. The promotion of any further academic qualifications had been banned.

Naturally enough, the engineering graduate was stunned when he received the letter. He could not understand why he could not promote his tremendous academic qualifications for his own financial benefit after working so hard to obtain them.

After some discussions with a few of his more experienced colleagues, the situation became clear. The reason for this apparently peculiar government decision was that there was a distinct lack of engineers in the country. It seemed that a lot of the engineer’s colleagues had moved abroad — most of them to the US — leaving a scarcity of highly qualified talent at home.

The government’s solution to this thorny issue was to allow many engineers from the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Europe enter the country to take up the slack left by the engineers that were moving out. But there was a problem. Many of the imports were not as well qualified as the young graduate and, as such, would not appear to be quite as attractive to employers, unless, of course, something was done about it.

So rather than give the impression that there were hundreds of rather less academically qualified personnel practising engineering in the UK, the government decided to create a level playing field for engineers, in which no one engineer would appear to be any more qualified that any other. And to do so, it banned the promotion of anything but a basic engineering qualification.

This, dear reader is, of course, a fictitious story.

In the private sector, such behaviour would be considered a complete outrage. There, the experience and knowledge of our more qualified engineers is considered an advantage — not just to the companies that they are employed by, or the companies that they themselves have started up — but to our society as a whole.

But in the public sector, especially in the National Health Service — where home-grown medical talent seems to be so sorely lacking — could such a mandate already be in place to hoodwink Joe Public into believing that he is receiving free medical treatment that is identical to that on offer from private clinics?

David Wilson

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