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Institution Forums > General > Engineer status in UK View modes: 
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RC - 22/12/2006 00:00:00
   
Engineer status in UK
I think most engineers in UK would agree that engineers in this country (UK) have little or no respect from the general public, and I believe it is because we never protect our status like other professionals. Everyone who using tools for their daily job are now starting to call themselves “engineer”. For examples, no one would call the people who work in the Citizen Advice Bureau who give advices to public as “solicitor”; a local store manager who done his book keeping as “accountant”; and certainly no-one would call the security man keeping order in a private event as “policeman”, Pharmacies and Medical doctors are well distinguished, and closer to our trade, an interior designer would never allow to themselves as “architects”. Recently, a “chair engineer” and “furniture engineer” visited our office to tighten a few bolts and screws; a local “drainage engineer” who in fact done nothing but clean drains; the office handyman is now “office engineer” and anyone remember the Levi’s “engineered jeans” couple years ago? Engineering and medical degrees are the toughest courses in University, and after spending 4 years for my degrees, 5 years at work, 7.5 hours on the toughest professional exam. I am now an engineer, just like the guy who replaced the bolt in my chair. Is there something wrong?

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Andy R - 24/12/2006 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Yes. There is something wrong. Quite simply as you note above, anyone can call themselves an Engineer, and anyone can call themselves a Structural Engineer. I've worked for some of the bigger firms in this country and there a people within them who are Chartered Civil Engineers, who choose to adopt the title of Structural / Senior Structural or Principal Structural Engineer for the kudos it brings them. These "structural engineers" have never even come close to sitting never mind passing Part 3, and whilst they might well make excellent members of our institution, should not be able to style themselves as such until they have tested their mettle with those of us who have endured those seven and a half ours in which we are required to prove ourselves. We don’t have protected title status, and the institution does little if anything to prevent people practicing under the title Structural Engineer. Erroneously practicing under the title Chartered Structural Engineer, is a different matter, and would quite rightly stir the powers that be into action, but how many of the general public actually know the difference between employing a Structural Engineer, and a Chartered Structural Engineer? In guidance note 4.4 of the code of conduct it states of advertising material and circulars; “Members wishing to issue such material should ensure that there is no allusion to the Institution by the use of designatory letters or the titles Chartered / Incorporated Structural Engineer’ or the Institution’s logo.” In effect we are hiding our lights under the proverbial bushel by not alluding to the presence of the Institution, our own governing body, and limiting the credibility of members and the need for Clients to employ a Chartered or Incorporated Engineer. If you cant advertise the fact you are a fully paid up member (CEng or IEng), then we have no means of raising our status as Chartered and Incorporated members above those who also advertise as “structural engineers” with no connection to our professional body, and perhaps little more experience than a CAD technicina who's designed a beam once or twice. If you look in the yellow pages, you will find a section for Architects, and a section for “architectural services”. It should be quite clear to the reader what the differences are, and there are notices by both RIBA & the ARB, alluding to the respective profesional bodies, and their rasion d'etre. We are not even allowed to advertise that fact the Institution exists! RICS also have similar advertisements. I think it is high time we started a similar scheme for practicing Engineers, if not under the lead of the institution, then possibly under the ACE banner. And at the very least being allowed a strap line on adverts such as "All, or 80% of the Principals of our Consultancy are member of the Institution of Structural Engineers, and are governed by the codes of conduct “ Failing that, a posible "Design Certificate" for building regs submission, requiring that all submissions for Structual calcs are duly signed off by a CEng or IEng would go some way to raising the profile and need of employing duly qualified persons.

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edwina - 02/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
I like Andy's line, actually, which raises some issues that I hadn't considered. On the wider argument, however, I have to disagree with RC's line of argument ... It is true that the term "engineer" is somewhat prolific nowadays, but of course it is technically correct in many cases, as engineer is defined as somebody who uses or maintains a machine (Oxford Concise). That being the case, it is surely down to us to spread the word about what value we, as professionally qualified structural engineers, add to society. I would say that this is increasingly being done for us, as the role of engineers in addressing flooding, construction (eg Millennium Footbridge) and the like is frequently reported in the media. It is certainly true that if I tell people I'm a structural engineer they are usually very interested in what that means and what I know about, say, Wembley or the Olympics. Society, then, is perhaps not as blind to our work as we believe. Of course it is frequently the case that people hear about problems, rather than successes, but that is surely the case with medical care, accountancy and the like. I would argue that people often look at and comment on structures, and always have done. Whether the association with the engineers is drawn must be another question, but it is surely a relatively small step and I believe we are on the right track at the moment. Certainly the ICE seems to have worked hard at getting engineers visibly involved with public affairs over the last year or so. On the subject of professional qualification, to be honest I find that my doctor and accountant friends have a much harder time than us. They spend a great deal longer revising, attending long courses, and being assessed than I do even several years after graduation. My final point is in drawing these thing together. Our status in society is surely based on those who we deal with directly. Much as doctors' status is based on patients' direct experiences, combined with perceptions from frequent bad press. If we want higher salaries and greater respect, therefore, we need to demonstrate to our clients (not society as a whole) that we are worth paying more because of what we can deliver. The challenge, it seems to me, is in the mechanics of how to do this and not in the general status debate. Who's next on the soapbox?

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edwina - 02/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Oh, one more thing (!). It is significant, I believe, that architects are perceived as having excellent status around society. Loads of kids want to be architects, people generally think of them as stylish and eligible, and their qualification is challenging. Their salaries and working conditions (hours, job security and so on) appear to be worse than engineers', however. That being the case, why do we engineers continue to beat ourselves up about our status? As long as sell ourselves well when we deal with clients, or in social situation, then the problem will resolve itself. If it is money that is really driving the debate, then it seems to me that we may be on the wrong track entirely.

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Mr Harold Chipili - 12/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
This is absolutely true not only to UK but worldwide i suppose.For example in my own country in Malawi, Engineers have not been given the recognition and the respect we deserve as compared to doctors and lawyers.This is a reflection of our responsibility as engineers in enforcing effective laws with the legislature that will protect our profession.You can imagine the abuses that we are undergoing apart from low salaries despite the contribution we are making towards development of the infrastructures, the risks involved in the design of structures etc..I totally agree with RC onthis issue.I think the IStructE needs to bring to attention its members in all countries to enforce such standards that will protect the profession from such abuses-how dare can a guy who fixes the sink call himself an engineer instead of a Plumber if at all he is one.It is not worth for the establishment of numerous institutions that do not attempt to find out the status of Engineers in terms of such recognition and respect.

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RC - 18/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Not surprisingly, I have to disagree with edwina comments. If the Oxford Concise defines “Engineer” as someone who uses or maintains a machine, then I am afraid none of us would be entitled to call ourselves engineer, as our service is base on our engineering knowledge, and NOT our craftsmanship. Our professional knowledge is base on years of academic training and professional experiences; structural theories are base on modern science and project management skills are base modern management philosophies, and none of these involve the use of tools or machine. Beside, if Edwina is correct, then a carpenter who uses tools for their living should be more appropriate as “timber engineer specialist”, and all site workers should also be called “engineer”. The general public does not respect engineer partly because we engineers never protect our status like other professionals, and also they do not understand the value we bring to the society. To change this, we need to protect our status and to promote the true engineering values to the UK public.

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edwina - 19/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Just to clarify, I meant that the definition of engineer *includes* one who uses or maintains a machine. It also includes something like "one who is professionally engaged in a branch of engineering". My point was simply that it is probably not possible to prevent people from using what is, in fact, a term with very broad meaning. Boiler repair people maintain machines and therefore cannot, perhaps, be prevented from calling themselves engineers. Presumably that is why we have to go with "chartered engineer", or possibly "structural engineer" as being the protected term. How many other professions have protected status? A doctor can be anyone with a PhD, so does not protect the medical profession (although I suppose "GP", "pediatrician" and the like are protected). "Accountants" and "teachers" are not protected. "Lawyer" is protected, but is unlikely to be as over-used as "engineer". So what does that leave? The clergy and the military, perhaps. There is no clear indication to my mind that those with protected titles enjoy more respect from the public. My original point was first that I do not believe that engineers are under-respected and secondly that I do not believe that the road to respect is paved with protecting the word "engineer". So what is it that makes so many of us feel under-respected as a profession? That is, I think, the more interesting point. The terminology debate is a red herring.

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RE: Engineer status in UK
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Mr M Waheed - 19/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Dear Edwina, Please refer to definition of Engineer from website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer. "An engineer is someone who is trained or professionally engaged in a branch of engineering.[1] Engineers use creativity, technology, and scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. People who work as engineers normally have an academic degree (or equivalent work experience) in one of the engineering disciplines.[2]"

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edwina - 19/01/2007 00:00:00
   
RE: Engineer status in UK
Mr Waheed, I'm trying to avoid drifting too far into symantics. My point, as I've reiterated already, is that I believe the word "engineer" to be already used correctly by a broad range of people. I do not believe that going through the difficult process of protecting the term is likely to yield better respect or status. Do you feel that you are not respected or lack status? What, specifically, makes you feel that way? I can't help but add that Wikipedia is written by anyone who cares to contribute, albeit with a level of review. The dictionary is a far more reliable source. Even so, if you continue to read the Wikipedia article you will find that "in Britain, an engineer can also mean a technician or a person that mends and operates machinery".

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