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Topic Title: Engineer Status in UK
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Created On: 19 December 2012 03:07 PM
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 10 March 2013 09:21 PM
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rcapol

Posts: 17
Joined: 23 December 2002

And there are plenty of managers without management qualifications and plenty of directors without directorship qualifications and there are plenty of parents without qualifications in child management and there are plenty of MP's who have never actually worked in industry and there are plenty of secretaries of state who have zero experience or qualifications in the departments they work in......so what?

Maybe the managers have made the correct decisions and maybe that is why they are managers.


So much negativity. It doesn't make it right.
Maybe if some of these posts were made to be staffed by people who were experienced and qualified, there would be less mis-management, better political policies, and maybe, just maybe some things would change for the better.
On second thoughts, let's just not bother trying to improve things.

Edited: 10 March 2013 at 09:27 PM by rcapol
 10 March 2013 10:26 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: rcapol
So much negativity. It doesn't make it right.

Maybe if some of these posts were made to be staffed by people who were experienced and qualified, there would be less mis-management, better political policies, and maybe, just maybe some things would change for the better.

On second thoughts, let's just not bother trying to improve things.


If you want to suggest improvements without showing that there is currently a significant issue which needs to be dealt with and without then also showing that your suggestion would make any significant improvement then expect to be challenged. The government have already decided against protecting the title of engineer and so it would seem that those who are elected to run the country and who are advised by authoritative people in business and education etc., are also in agreement with my position, and that of many others, to maintain the status quo.

Just because we do not want to adopt your suggestion it does not mean we do not want to improve things, we improve things every day.

Regards.
 11 March 2013 11:42 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Rob,

Do you have any thoughts on how you decide that someone is competent to carry out design work safely?

From my experience in managing safety critical design I personally would have to suggest that none of academic qualifications, industrial experience, or even (dare I say it) CEng prove this - I have seen scarily unsafe proposals produced by individuals and groups with any or all of these. So if companies were to introduce such a screening process what would they ask for?

Going right back to the start of this thread, the big difference between designing a gas boiler safely and installing it safely is that you can be trained and tested on safe installation; I would venture to suggest that you cannot train someone to carry out safe design.

In practice at present this safety is carried out by organisational process - theoretically every engineer working on the design of safety critical equipment should have their work checked by at least one other engineer, and in practice it will typically be several other engineers, some working independently. Because even those of us who are experienced, and to some extent skilled, in safe design are still human, we still make mistakes. But I would love to see some gold standard to assist me in recruiting engineers, however as asked above I honestly have no idea how you would measure this, and even if you did it probably wouldn't leave you with enough engineers to recruit!

The one thing I would say, is that if any engineer ever claims to be competent to design equipment without making any mistakes then don't let them near safety critical design! We had major difficulties a while back with a new to us (but highly experienced) engineer who considered it an impertinence when we said we would need to check his work - his attitude was "you employed me as a professional, you should trust me". Now that's how accidents happen! Job titles are the least of our problems.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 11 March 2013 at 11:48 AM by amillar
 11 March 2013 04:58 PM
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dlane

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Originally posted by: amillar

I would venture to suggest that you cannot train someone to carry out safe design.



Andy, to a degree I can understand where you are coming from with this and although you may not be able to train somebody to carry out a safe design per se, I would say you could train them in what the concepts of a safe design are and the various tools that can be utilised. You have already mentioned one with the process of having engineering worked checked and validated, but there are many others.

The problem I see, is that design work is very much company orientated and therefore the competency framework would be devised by the company itself for its own use. Although professional registration may be part of that competency, it isn't likely to cover the specific design competencies required by a specific company for their specific products / systems, so would have a low value to them.

Kind regards

Donald Lane
 12 March 2013 09:02 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Yes I guess I should have clarified that I was thinking of the "soft skills" of safe design, the problem is that it is possible to go through all the "trainable" processes - HAZID, FMEA, FTA etc - and still produce an unsafe design if the engineers involved have particular ways of thinking: the joy and downfall of design is that it, by definition, involves individual creativity and expertise.

Very good point about corporate competencies, this is exactly why there is no great push for compulsary registration of engineers. It is quite different from professions which do demand individual demonstration of competance because it is likely that those professionals will be employed from outside that profession as individuals.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 12 March 2013 at 09:52 AM by amillar
 12 March 2013 12:26 PM
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dlane

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I accept that there are engineers out there with a specific train of thinking that can hinder the design process, but I do believe that the tools out there that provide self realisation and others that allow different thought patterns to aid in design and creativity can also be learnt. As with all skills, the more they are practised, the more profficient people become and there has to be a willingness to learn them in the first place. There is a very good documented case of a heart transplant team learning procedures from the Ferrari formula 1 pitstop team.

Througout my career I have also come across engineers, usually as service engineers, that cover multiple disciplines specifically trained by their companies on the diagnostics, repair and maintenance of their machines and systems. They generally have lower levels of knowledge of specific trades, but have an incredible in depth knowledge of specific machines. Where do you place this kind of engineer in a generalised registration system? In terms of value to a company, these engineers can have a much greater impact on production savings than a generalised single discipline engineer like myself would have.

Kind regards

Donald Lane
 12 March 2013 01:07 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Yes, quite. I have one engineer working for me who regularly leads our validation processes. He does not have a degree, and would struggle to demonstrate registered status. Yet he is a superb validation engineer and manager (due to his attitude and experience): his work has sailed through product acceptance, and indeed been regularly praised, by numerous independant assessment bodies.

I suppose this is one reason I struggle with the idea that "we should only employ registered engineers in xyz positions", as you suggest my experience has been that we need a mix of engineers who recognise each others skills and abilities.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 17 March 2013 10:38 AM
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rcapol

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I can't disagree of course, I work with similar people eveyday, but surely setting some basic, common, national acceditation levels would, overall, help the industry. The industry (employers) would have a reasonable framework of basic competency assesment in order to evaluate candiates and employees. And with which to further build on with the specific skills required for any specific business. In a similar light to standardised academic accreditations (HNC, degrees etc) are seen as a demostration of completed academic education, with a basic level of attainment reached denoted by the qualification awarded.
Standardising the assesment process is what profesional registration process attempts to do. If it's not good enough we should improve it, and embrace it.

Yes, this is of course, a contributory element to the overall level of competence, not a standalone. But surely it is reasonable to require a demonstration of some basic level of competency and academic qualification for engineering tasks presenting reasonable levels of risk? I understand that this what the Professional Registation does (or at least attempts to do).

Some of the points of view that professional registration it is not beneficial, can of course be applied to all other professions. Like for like on skills, which pilot would you choose to fly you your family on holiday, one who is suitably registered, accredited on a specific aircraft and airports etc and has demonstrated this through a licencing process, or one who has not.
 17 March 2013 01:24 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: rcapol
I can't disagree of course, I work with similar people eveyday, but surely setting some basic, common, national acceditation levels would, overall, help the industry.

What is wrong with the industry as things stand? What are the significant issues which have occurred and which would be solved by your suggestion?
The industry (employers) would have a reasonable framework of basic competency assesment in order to evaluate candiates and employees.

Why not conduct a survey of employers and ask them if that is in fact what they require and then you will have some evidence to support your suggestions?
Some of the points of view that professional registration it is not beneficial, can of course be applied to all other professions. Like for like on skills, which pilot would you choose to fly you your family on holiday, one who is suitably registered, accredited on a specific aircraft and airports etc and has demonstrated this through a licencing process, or one who has not.

Before you go on the plane do you personally check the pilot is as you suggest and has those qualifications or do you rely on the relevant company having done it? Let me ask you a question and I hope you see where I am coming from with this. I will assume that you have children in this question. Have you ever taken your children walking by a busy road, or by the cliffs or else engaged in some other higher risk activity and did you require yourself to be professionally registered to do so in order to ensure the safety of those in this world who you love the most? Maybe we should have that, professional registration for all parents, after all we are charged with protecting the lives of the most vulnerable and raising them in a world full of risks.

My point is that there are already enough safe guards in place and current systems work very well on the whole. Yes of course they can be improved upon but let's focus our efforts and resources in the areas which will deliver real benefits which benefit all stakeholders. Improved training and education and opportunities and better investment in British Manufacturing industry so we can build more real products instead of trying to make money from pushing virtual money around the globe.

Regards.
 19 March 2013 02:54 PM
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Guest

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Joined: 19 March 2013

Behind these reams of commentary , the basic problem remains : in UK , for historical reasons , "engineer" is not a title, it's a job description - just like "artist" or "builder". And just like artists and builders, there are no specific qualifications needed to be one.

Some of those engineers who do have specific qualifications would dearly love to stop the others from being called "engineers", but it's not going to happen any time soon.
 22 March 2013 12:10 AM
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Brian Robertson

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UK SALARIES 2012

Text

No 50 Electrical engineers

Its interesting above 50
 22 March 2013 04:47 PM
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mbirdi

Posts: 1907
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Originally posted by: Brian Robertson
No 50 Electrical engineers
Its interesting above 50

As I suspected, IT professionals are the top earners compared to engineers - line 8, 30, 34, 44

Though, I find it hard to believe that Barristers and Judges can earn £40,242 (line 60); while solicitors earn £45,585 (line 41) and Legal professionals (whatever that means) earn £52,069 (Line 23).

If I were a Judge I would sentence the Solicitors and Legal professionals to 3 months hard labour.
 25 March 2013 04:47 PM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
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Interesting stuff and enough to keep us arguing or exchanging banter for ever, although there seems to be some duplication and out of date distinctions. For example when did you last meet a Flight (i.e. flight deck) Engineer. Most of the "last of breed" left their caps behind trapped in a bulkhead 10yrs ago.

The most notable difference for me was between Train/Tram Drivers (no 48) and other drivers (no 95). Hoping I don't bump into Bob Crow down the pub, if I do I'll say my name is Birdi

It is pleasing to note that I would estimate, about 50% of the top 25 occupations contain a reasonable proportion of professional engineers, Including a fair smattering of IEng representation. It is also pleasing to note that Pipe Fitters are keeping the skilled craft end up, although the Electricians must be fuming at being lower down (lack of overtime probably?).

Of course all of this is driven by the various determinants of labour market economics. However most professional engineers and technicians are earning respectably and gaining great job satisfaction from the things they create. Ever seen a good plant rooom - a hidden work of art

-------------------------
Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 26 March 2013 07:43 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Not many great surpsrises here: taking the '50' point as some sort of break point, pretty much everybody above this line is taking a high level of personal responsibility for decision making without having a rulebook to follow. 'Physical scientists' is a bit odd though, don't think you'll find many jobs at that sort of salary in the back of New Scientist! And given the conditions police officers work under you can see why they're a bit miffed.

To understand why train driver is so high you need sit alongside one in the cab, really not a pleasant job: hours of incredible boredom interspersed with seconds of complete panic when you think you're going to kill hundreds of people. (Not to mention passengers spitting in your face.) Very hard to explain without being there.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 02 April 2013 06:51 PM
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jencam

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Protecting the title of engineer has the potential of opening Pandora's box. What credentials will be required to protect the title? The IET has no real knowledge of exactly who works in the electronics industry in the UK and what tasks they carry out on a regular basis. Currently anybody can call themselves an engineer, and more importantly, design and develop electrical and mechanical products without any particular qualifications or membership of organisations. If engineer becomes a protected title in the UK then it creates a possibility that designing and developing electrical and mechanical products will no longer be legal on British soil unless one first holds certain qualifications or is accepted as a member of a particular organisation. This could lead to job losses. Maybe just a few thousand but they could be talented people that industry cannot afford to lose. The IET probably isn't too much concerned about this because they are more interested about the image and status in society of their members many times more than they are about creating jobs in the engineering industry on British soil. The counterargument is that qualifications and membership is what separates the professionals from the cowboys but this goes back to the question of exactly what credentials are required.
 04 April 2013 07:03 AM
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Brian Robertson

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It would be interesting to get an insurance company point of view of where they would stand if there was found to be a design error.

For example
Say some engineer ( anyone can call themselves this ) did an electrical services design ( not registered as CEng or IEng with no electrical qualifications ) and there was a fire.

I wonder if the company they worked for would be covered.

I also wonder if having CEng or IEng in companies reduces insurance premiums.



Brian
 04 April 2013 08:52 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: Brian Robertson
Say some engineer ( anyone can call themselves this ) did an electrical services design ( not registered as CEng or IEng with no electrical qualifications ) and there was a fire.

I wonder if the company they worked for would be covered.

If the company had taken no effort to ensure that member of staff was competent they would probably be in breach of HASAWA, let alone invalidating the insurance.

The important point here is that it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that the engineer is competent, if they are not and someone is killed in the accident is is most likely that the MD would go to jail, not the engineer. Which is why (at a simplistic level) the MD gets paid more. How the employer does that is up to them, for a SME it is almost certainly going to make sense to use recognised qualifications, but a large employer (for example MOD or electrical utilities companies) may decide that their own training scheme is equally valid. In the end it is whatever they feel they can defend in court.

If you personally employ an electrician to work on your house of course the situation is quite different, hence Part P etc, and hence why electricians can (with a bit of effort) earn more than Chartered Engineers.

I also wonder if having CEng or IEng in companies reduces insurance premiums.

I've never heard of this happening, I would be very surprised if it did. The company should be employing competent staff as a minimum, not as a bonus!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 04 April 2013 at 09:03 AM by amillar
 04 April 2013 08:42 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: amillar
If the company had taken no effort to ensure that member of staff was competent they would probably be in breach of HASAWA, let alone invalidating the insurance.


How can an employer guarantee that an employee is competent unless they have taken specific training courses in safe design and working practices? From an intuitive and common sense perspective it is totally ludicrous to assume that holding an academic qualification makes one competent or provides an assurance of safe design practices. Insurance companies (which are usually staffed by technically illiterate people) might reduce premiums if all staff hold honours degrees or have CEng after their name, but gas fitters and electricians have to undertake specific training courses which include safe working practices rather than "read for their degree" like engineers usually have to do. Even medicine, dentistry, and law degrees are more like training courses, overseen by those who actually practice these subjects in the real world, rather than traditional academic degrees.
 07 April 2013 12:51 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: jencam
How can an employer guarantee that an employee is competent unless they have taken specific training courses in safe design and working practices?

You are correct in that this type of training should be included as a part of the competency requirements however it is more complicated than this because there are so many variables involved in 'competency'. In H&S legislation the term 'reasonably practicable' is most often used, and for good reason, and this allows companies to make a cost versus risk judgement. If things go wrong then ultimately it will be for a court to decide on whether the correct judgement was made. Those judgements are then fedback into the process to improve decisions, or else they should be! If we go to the HSE's guidance on competency then we find that the guidance gets longer and longer and more complicated the more areas they try to cover, and that is the issue with competency. I conclude however that the training you suggest is an essential part.
From an intuitive and common sense perspective it is totally ludicrous to assume that holding an academic qualification makes one competent or provides an assurance of safe design practices.

Correct but let's not forget that with regards to design much nowadays is done with computer software and modelling tools etc., and whilst the gas fitter may service and repair the boiler they are not the one designing it, in most cases. I thought the idea was to design something and then build a prototype(s) and test the equipment as required to ensure it is safe before it is released onto the market. I conclude that both the designers and gas fitter etc., need to be involved in that process because each bring different skills and experience to the table. The common error is when companies think that engineers design and service engineers fix and repair when the thinking should be a team designs and a team service and repair. Of course we cannot have the fitter 100% in the office designing or the designer 100% on site fitting but each need to be able to share each others knowledge and experience etc. When I worked for Siemens and covered a wide variety of equipment I was highly competent not because of my qualifications or professional status but rather I was because I worked as part of a team and could call on a wide variety of expertise as was required for the job I was doing. Neither qualifications or IEng or CEng etc., make someone competent, they are just evidence that a person has some parts of what is required to be competent.
Insurance companies (which are usually staffed by technically illiterate people) might reduce premiums if all staff hold honours degrees or have CEng after their name, but gas fitters and electricians have to undertake specific training courses which include safe working practices rather than "read for their degree" like engineers usually have to do.

With regards to say FM Global and Allianz and a whole range of others who insure Nuclear Plants, Fire Risks, Oil Rigs, Ships, etc., and also carry out inspections such as pressure vessel, lifting equipment, etc., we can find that most insurance companies have people within their organisations who are very highly technically literate, it's just that those 'experts' cannot also man the phones 24/7.
Even medicine, dentistry, and law degrees are more like training courses, overseen by those who actually practice these subjects in the real world, rather than traditional academic degrees.

Most degress are taught by people who are expected to spend a significant part of their time still practising their discipline in the real world. I have done several degrees and all my tutors had real world experience and were still carrying out 'work' in their area. As I recall one of those tutors was called to be an expert witness in a court case and so the court was obviously content that she had the relevant competency in her area.

No one person can do every job in the world and that is why we need the fitter and the designer and the operator and the insurance clerk and the cleaner and the receptionist and the farmer and the doctor and the teacher, and so on. It is by working as a team and sharing our knowledge and expertise we improve our competency.

Regards.
 15 April 2013 09:19 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: westonpa
Correct but let's not forget that with regards to design much nowadays is done with computer software and modelling tools etc., and whilst the gas fitter may service and repair the boiler they are not the one designing it, in most cases. I thought the idea was to design something and then build a prototype(s) and test the equipment as required to ensure it is safe before it is released onto the market. I conclude that both the designers and gas fitter etc., need to be involved in that process because each bring different skills and experience to the table. The common error is when companies think that engineers design and service engineers fix and repair when the thinking should be a team designs and a team service and repair. Of course we cannot have the fitter 100% in the office designing or the designer 100% on site fitting but each need to be able to share each others knowledge and experience etc. When I worked for Siemens and covered a wide variety of equipment I was highly competent not because of my qualifications or professional status but rather I was because I worked as part of a team and could call on a wide variety of expertise as was required for the job I was doing. Neither qualifications or IEng or CEng etc., make someone competent, they are just evidence that a person has some parts of what is required to be competent.


In the absence of nationally recognised qualifications of sufficient quality, competence then becomes a subjective matter. An employee deemed to be competent by Mr Johnson may not be deemed to be competent by Mr Hartley.

Most degress are taught by people who are expected to spend a significant part of their time still practising their discipline in the real world. I have done several degrees and all my tutors had real world experience and were still carrying out 'work' in their area. As I recall one of those tutors was called to be an expert witness in a court case and so the court was obviously content that she had the relevant competency in her area.


I'm not sure if the situation has changed since I last worked in a university but back then I enquired about lecturers working in the real world. The answer was that the majority of lecturers hold a PhD and studied for a PhD with the primary objective of becoming a university lecturer although many of them previously worked in industry and some didn't start studying their PhD until they were at least 30 years old. The number of lecturers that return to industry is overall quite low although it varies from department to department. Some returning lecturers find that they prefer industry to academia or feel that longer term career prospects are better and enter on midrange careers, but every now and then a lecturer is offered a plum job in industry on recognition of their experience and talents. What is more commonplace is for lecturers to offer consultancy services to industry from the university. In some instances it can be quite lucrative.
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