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Back to basics


Fortunately the most interesting and significant thing about the outcome of the recent consultation on the proposed merger between the ICE and IMechE is the only information so far released into the public domain - the turnout.

Even by the usual standards of membership apathy, 9,103 responses from the ICE's 78,215 global membership is pretty poor, particularly when you nsider the potential magnitude of the proposal.

Particularly lamentable was the interest shown by the ICE's younger engineers - the future of the profession, as we are so often reminded. For all the talk by the National Graduates & Students Committee et al about the need to encourage young engineers by listening to and acting on their views, only around one in 15 bothered to get involved.

This speaks volumes about the scale of the challenge faced by the ICE and the whole profession, not just about this merger proposal, but on all issues facing the profession's future.

So even having sat through the Council's confi dential discussions this week on the detail of the consultation outcome, I despair. But I am not particularly surprised.

As I said at the start of the consultation process in June, there are some pretty compelling arguments for bringing these two organisations together again.

A merger really would present the opportunity to 'adapt to the needs of members by embracing the increasingly integrated, interdisciplinary nature of modern engineering', to re-quote the consultation document.

Looking at the way our project teams are structured and at the skills required by today's professional civil and mechanical engineers, it is the logical way forward and the most effective way to really secure a voice for engineering in the high tech future.

But it has to be driven by real desire and passion from the rank and fi e, by a natural desire by those actually operating at the sharp end, not simply by a group of reform enthusiasts, intent on making a mark in history.

This is perhaps a trifle unfair to those leading this merger agenda - particularly as I would like to think of myself as being, at the very least, a supporter of this group of reform enthusiasts.

But the facts cannot be denied - their (lack of) participation shows civil engineers have not warmed to this idea.

To discover why it is that we see such apathy on the part of members I fi d my thoughts continually returning to the scale of the revitalisation challenge already identified by the ICE.

As such, I will simply restate my comment from 2 June.

'While merger with the IMechE is a sensible, forward-looking opportunity for all involved, it will, by its own admission, be a 'complex process that brings challenges'. It will be a process that inevitably saps energy and resources. Regardless of the prize, we must surely ask whether this is really what civil engineering professionals need their institution to be doing right now-' For me, an 11.6% turnout provides a reasonable answer to this question. We must therefore get Council's focus back on the main event - revitalisation of the ICE.

Specifi lly, we must get back to the outstanding need for some realistic objectives against which to measure how effectively next year's 15% subs increase is spent. It must be used to ensure that ICE members - particularly graduates and students - in future feel sufficiently included to bother responding to a simple consultation process.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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