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Phil Wardle - 11/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
I think that would be a great idea. Particularly in view of programmes like grand designs who only bring in structural engineers when there is a problem, and then don't tell you what the solution to the problem was! Most programs seem to interpret a building's "design" as the architectural concept and don't go into the engineering element. Even with stadiums a lot of credit is given to the architect when obviously the major input is structural. However, would programs that concentrate on structure be of interest to the general public? I think that it's easier for the public to understand an architectural concept compared with its end result rather than what goes on in between. Whilst I've heard many a people say "that's an impressive building...." I rarely hear the words "....but how did they make it stand up?" Are we kidding ourselves here? I'd like to think not but have we actually done a survey of public perception of engineers?

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Miss Lynn McBeth - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
I really get more depressed every time i look on here reading the negative comments and gloomy outlook of the posts written. Why does it actually matter what the general perception of Structural Engineers is? To my mind it is vain and arrogant to expect the general public to even CARE what we do, isnt it enough that we know? People soon realise what Structural Engineers do when they need one, and when they do, the idea that a washing machine repair man calling him or herself an engineer and confusing the client is a little ridiculous. We have a purpose and we fill it. The status of Chartered Structural Engineer can not legally be used by any one who is not so qualified so that part of our title is in fact protected. The desire for the elevation of status can only be seen as a desire to show off to less informed individuals. It is boring and if anything is dragging the profession down to moan on about it. Structures are not going to suddenly stop being built or developing maintenance issues simply because ther are insufficient structural engineers to deal with the problem. When the balance of supply and demmand tips in this direction then fees will go up as will entrants into the profession. In my opionion, we are not far off that point now given the difficult task of recruitment facing almost every consultancy accross the county. We should not let ourselves forget that the reason the fee level is as it is is due to engineers undercutting each other so in that respect, we only have ourselves to blame. that being said, if we are collectively responsible for what is considered to be low fees, then we can also be collectively responsible for raising them. I have never known the range of lucrative and exciting opportunities open to me as i have at this moment in time and i cannot be alone in that. It is true that we are never going to be rock star architects, but i knew that before i entered the profession. it is enough for me to know that no matter how much praise and glory is showered on architects that they could not have done it without an engineer. and they know it too. That gives me the quiet satisfaction that makes my job worthwhile, this is not after all X factor.

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Phil Wardle - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
It's not ridiculous Lynn. This is not a recent debate about how vain Engineers are becoming. It's a debate that has been long standing and which resulted in The Finniston report being published in the late 70's/early 80's. It was important enough a subject for the Government to Commission the report in 1977, so I think there is good reason to discuss it now as it clearly causes concern. You said "The status of Chartered Structural Engineer can not legally be used by any one who is not so qualified so that part of our title is in fact protected." If you look at the "Not in London" Topic on this forum you will see Chartered Engineers questioning whether the C.Eng. qualification is worth it, and the fact that we are already driven down by supply and demmand means that they will not necessarily look to Chartered Engineers to run projects. Those comments may be a little extreme at the moment but the legal protection you mention may need to be looked at if this becomes the case. It seems a loop hole could be exploited if currently you can be protected by just having one person in the organisation who is Chartered, but the person running any particular job is not. I'm trying to be positive but in dicussing this there are lots of issues that need to be considered. You have to look at the negative to see how you can turn it to positive, but looking at your comments you seem to be saying that we should simply accept the situation we're in and just get on with it. Personally, I don't want to do that. I don't think this is about vanity, there's more to it than that. Part of the reason we are not seeing kids studying Structural Engineering is probably because they don't know it exists. If we were to develop educational programmes that kids could watch at school it may make some of them interested enough to consider it. The only reason I knew of Structural Engineering was because my Dad was an Architect. I think most kids get introduced to it through members of their family who are involved in the industry rather than being given careers advice about it at school. If these kind of programmes were aimed at adults and kids in an interesting and informative way, I am sure there is a market for it and it will help people understand what it is we do, and generate interest. Up the I.Struct.E I say !!!

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Mr Richard Harris - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Lynn, the point that I'd like to make is that the public doesn't seem to understand that we act as their agent, rather than as their contractor. What I mean is that there isn't one design solution for a project. A good design will specify the most effective use of materials & labour to meet a number of conflicting requirements: safety; serviceability, economy; aesthetics; durability, etc. I've done a lot of checking of structural designs for Building Control, & I know that quality of design varies considerably between different 'engineers'. It is obvious that some engineers are intent on doing 'good' designs (whatever that might mean), and others seem to prefer to produce a scheme in the shortest time that they can manage, regardless. The former are Engineers, the latter are Businesspersons. It used to amaze me that some 'architects' used the same 'engineers' regularly, when it was obvious to me that their clients were not being best served. Of course, the 'architect' probably didn't realize that he was getting lousy structural designs out of his tame 'engineer'. To be fair to our profession, the worst offenders were not MIStructEs. So long as a significant percentage of the public doesn't understand this, & wants to get the cheapest price for a structural design, the engineer who wants to do a good thorough job can't charge for the time he/she needs to spend on it if they're going to be competitive with the cheapskates. Of course, if your practice doesn't work on domestic projects, you may not have any concern about this, except, it forces down rates at the bottom end of the market, which will ultimately affect rates for more prestigious projects. Oh, & by the way, when 'Polish' engineers come here, the current shortage of engineers will quickly evaporate.

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Mr Darryl Ward - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
I thought the Polish (and other nationalities, in fairness) were alreay here! Certainly a significant number of the applicants we see are non-British. While we have no issues with this I would suggest thast it certainly postpones/negates the effect of any tipping point on fees due to supply/demand shortages. Something that does drive down fees and that Phil and Richard have touched on is the issue of designs being provided by non-engineers such as surveyors etc. This is prevalent at the lower end of fee earning jobs but is something that also sneaks through with designs nominally signed off by a CEng but carried out by non-qualified people. I think my concern with the Institution is that in my opinion they should be lobbying for a change to Building Regs to determine designs must be carried out by/under direct supervision of a CEng and with PI Insurance. This will certainly help to raise fees and profile, in my opinion. I echo Richards comments re : business people vs engineers but this is something I`m fairly relaxed about. Cleverer clients will pay higher fees to get a better design that saves money on the build cost. The less well informed will save money on fees (typically a fraction of 1% of the build cost) but will end up spending much, much more on construction due to lack of consideration during design. It`s market forces and I think we have to cut our cloth to suit the fee. Unfortunate as this is, as long as the design is safe then we are providing "value for money". Its just that less money can unfortunately lead to less value. One gripe I do have is the amount of architects who demonstrate value for money as lead consultant by tendering for engineering, QS, M&E services. We`ve had to quote, in competition, on jobs where the fee is as low as £1500. What`s the point and how does the architect demonstrate that this is best value on anything other than marginal savings on fees? I can forgive a naive client. I always used to hope other construction professionals would be more appreciative of our skills! And of course, we all I am sure have to love the clients who want a Rolls Royce service and design for a Lada Riva fee! I think the only way forward is for the Institution to drop the Learned Society limitation and start to lobby/promote a proper understanding and reward of and for our profession.

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Mr Richard Harris - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Darryl, what disappointed me was that the Institution's client guide doesn't concisely address the, "save money on fees but spend much more on site for less serviceability, aesthetics, etc. due to lack of consideration during design" issue. Those of us working in the domestic market need a single A4 page format client's guide, clearly produced by the Institution, to send out with proposals. It should explain in simple language what we do in terms of meeting the conflicting requirements for safety, economy, serviceability, aesthetics, durability, etc. As an example of life at the bottom end of the market, I recently had someone balk at my suggested fee of about £300 for structural design & drawings for a first floor extension over a garage. She sounded very disappointed that it would cost so much! Well, I asked her to send me the architectural drawings, but never heard back from her. Sadly, this sort of thing depresses fees all the way up. An A4 client guide wouldn't have helped me in this instance, but over time, it would raise the perceived fair fee level for all parties.

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Jim Tod - 15/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
It was my post on 'Not in London' that Phil referred to and I'd like to say that it's not that I question the value of being chartered but that I question whether enough people coming through the industry feel that it benefits them nowadays. I have seen in a number of firms over the last few years a number of engineers with 10-15 years post graduate experience at senior engineer or even associate level who aren't chartered. I do not believe that it's necessarily the case that employers do not look to chartered engineers to run projects but that once they've looked to the chartered engineers, run them ragged with projects and not been able to find any more of them in the employment market then it's time to go to the next step- someone competent who could quite easily be chartered but doesn't feel the personal need to get chartered. These individuals then end up earning almost as much as the chartered engineer as they are basically doing the same job- at that time it's difficult to see the further motivation to get chartered to the individual. If we as a profession cannot convert the existing individuals we have to chartered engineers then it doesn't bode well. With regard to legal protection of who does design work, I operate in Scotland where we have had legal certification of structural design by chartered engineers since the early 1990's and informal certification in some local authorities going back probably 10-15 years before that. All I can say is that I don't hear anyone telling me that the status of chartered engineers in Scotland is higher than that of chartered engineers in England and Wales because there is a legal route which only chartered engineers can use (most clients seek the certification route because it takes months off the pre construction programme and in Scotland it's illegal to commence building works without a building warrant). Certification is however something that I could start a whole new thread about. Status does not automatically come from being a member of a particular profession. There are good accountants and bad accountants, good solicitors and bad solicitors, etc. I do not believe we can raise the status of Chartered Engineers en masse- we can raise awareness of what a Chartered Engineer is and does however the status part has to be earned on a client by client basis where we each deliver to the clients needs and show how we add value to the construction process- there will still be good engineers and bad engineers and it's not reasonable to expect the bad engineers to be afforded the same status in the industry as the good just because they are both chartered engineers. If anyone wants to see the status of Chartered Engineers raised then it's really simple- go out and earn the respect of every one of your Clients and explain to them how you have added value to the project- eventually when Clients realise where value can be generated then they will treat engineers with more respect-they will also however demand more and respect once earned must be maintained to be retained. With regard to fees, it always amazes me that there is a view that it's the nameless others who drag fees down to low levels which reduce the status of engineers. Every engineer putting together a fee proposal or tender bid who anticipates a low level of fees is required to win the work must reflect that if they really don't want to play the low fee game then they shouldn't join in the game. If they join in the game, however reluctantly, then don't complain- do something about it. For Mr Harris, perhaps you should consider that producing an individual Client Guide on a single A4 sheet for issue with all proposals defining the benefits using your services would bring for your proposed fee would be considered as a product differentiator by an astute businessman wheras it is difficult to envisage how a Client getting a copy of the same Institution pamphlet from 3 different engineers along with their individual fee proposals would get away from low fee wins 99% of the time.

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Phil Wardle - 16/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Again Jim - really valid points and I'm feeling these issues are really opening up and the forum is definately proving its worth. I hope the I.Struct.E are reading and giving consideration to the points made. It can only benefit us. I wasn't trying to criticise your comment but I really felt we should be trying to turn it around. I do worry though - Quote "someone competent who could quite easily be chartered but doesn't feel the personal need to get chartered." Why would they not feel the need to get Chartered? Surely that is the goal of every student coming into the profession. If they come into it with that goal, and that changes, then what happens to make them "not feel the need to get chartered?" You say - "If anyone wants to see the status of Chartered Engineers raised then it's really simple- go out and earn the respect of every one of your Clients and explain to them how you have added value to the project." A lot of the time they don't want to hear it - all they seem to be bothered about is what it looks like at the end and how little it will cost to build. Sometimes I sit in meetings listening to discussions about decor and what door handles they're going to have when they haven't even got the basic structural layout sorted. But telling a client to prioritise is difficult when they're calling the shots. And then of course we get the D&B contractors who think they know better because they built a similar development a few years ago "and we did it like this so why are you doing it like that?" I've had contractors use our design just to get Building Regs and then they do what they want on site. (They are the smaller contractors though who develop their own sites for their own end use.) "Value Engineering" - I hate that expression. If we actually called it what it was (ie - less robust, cheaper materials - cutting corners) I think the end user would think twice. In my view traditional contracts where we get novated to D&B contractors are the worst for that sort of thing. It seems we have to justify our designs every step of the way. Again all this sounds negative - but I think of it more as reality and the issues we need to face and turn around. I'm on my soap box again.

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Jim Tod - 16/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
The reasons for not feeling the need to get chartered are, I believe, mainly societal changes. 20+ years ago around 7-8% of our young people went on to degree level education- now I understand at least 40-50% of young people go through degree level qualifications. I don't object to that per se- if the strategy is a knowledge based economy then we've got to get the knowledge part right- what does concern me is that in order to fund the strategy as a society we've saddled our graduates starting out in employment with levels of debt that would choke a horse- the starting point then for most graduates therefore seems to be to relieve the debt burden as only then can they start thinking seriously about getting onto the property ladder- the priority therefore is not getting chartered but earning more money. I made the point on the 'Not in London' forum that I believed that the financial rewards are no longer at a sufficient level to differentiate between getting chartered and not getting chartered- part of the motivation has gone- those people I identify at 10-15 years experience who don't feel the need to get chartered have other things happening in their lives and don't see why they NEED to get chartered. They generally all profess a want to get chartered at some point but it's not a high priority- they're already at senior engineer or Associate type levels and it's not holding back their career. One route out of this is for the Institution to be lobbying Government, alongside with other appropriate industries, to explain that lots of graduates are nice to have in a modern society but there are certain industries that are essential to the delivery of the infrastructure and economic prospects of our country. A deal could be done to define that student debt for graduates within these industries (I don't limit this to engineering) would be reduced or waived by the Government if these individuals get professionally qualified within 7 years (fill in any sensible number here) or so of graduating. This would provide the benefits of incentives to have students enter our industry, remain there and get professionally qualified whilst also ensuring the resources are available for our country to prosper over the longer term- there's only so may Polish or Indian Engineers that we can sustain without getting around to growing our own talent and at some point these incoming engineers will move away- they don't solve the long term issue. Incentivising graduates away from studying for a degree capable of getting them a job in McDonalds and into something that the country actually needs would be a strategic government initiative worth backing. It does need however the Institution to decide (with the consent of the membership) that it's future lies with entering the political arena to address the needs of the nation and seek means of attracting members through delivering benefits with membership. A big step for a learned society to act in the political arena. Re your issue with Clients all I can suggest is you tell them what the benefits are. For some clients spending another £20 per door handle or chosing the right handle actually adds value to their project and they recognise that- they have agents explaining that to them. Understand the Client and their needs and explain it in terms of why spending more money on structure somewhere will deliver more value to them. if they chose not to spend it then its an informed decision but they will generally listen to this type of approach. D&B contractors are no different to any other clients. You just have to explain why something delivers better value. If you cant justify the choices you have made over a lower cost alternative then you haven't really delivered value. If you went down one route and were novated just point it out that the decision was made at an earlier stage and advise of the commercial consequences in going back. My own opinion is that too many Engineers are too timid regarding the business side of things and are not trained up well enough in this side of things. We have to deal with hard nosed clients, contractors and surveyors daily and should address commercial issues in the same manner as they do- in a business like way. Just ask the Client whether they really want an engineering firm looking after the financial interests of their project in respect to the engineering when they cant look after the interests of their own business?

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Phil Wardle - 16/06/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
I think we'll have to agree to disagree on some points Jim. My financial situation didn't stop me wanting to get Chartered, nor did buying a house or paying off debts. Personally I think that's an excuse for not being bothered or just wanting things handing on a plate - no offence. Prior to me getting Chartered my employer (at the time) was using it as an excuse to keep my salary down and I was always promised the significant financial rewards on achieving chartership. My situation now I think is as a direct result of the hard work I put in. I think you missed my point with the door handles and D&B bit. I was simply trying to say that they rarely value structural solutions and even if you provide them with the ultimate economical solution, they will still try pull it to bits to cut costs. They prefer to think about cutting costs with structure rather than finishes - understandable when most of the structure is hidden - but when you say you can't they still try find away. Your comments on entering the political arena I do like.

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