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Business focus is key to success for Clinton


The biggest challenge faced by Colin Clinton as he takes over as the youngest ever president of the ICE is that of living up to his advance billing.

With no disrespect to his predecessors, there is an air of excitement around the Institution ahead of Clinton's year in office. In the regions and among the headquarters secretariat, people are genuinely looking forward to his informal, 'get things done' style.

But is he the ICE's white knight, ready to lead it into the 21st century? In reality probably not. Yet like any moderniser taking up office for the first time, he has to live with the burden of having to be seen to make that important, radical difference.

His comparative youth will do him no end of good while at the helm of the 186 year old establishment. While Clinton maintains that he will not promote the cause of young engineers over any other grade of membership, it is a fair bet that a president who is not afraid to appear in public without his tie will make him attractive to the younger generation.

Yet hopefully the older generation will also be able to see further than his dress code when judging him. But to win them all over he really has to deliver on his stated aim of making the ICE valued by its members and the engineering business community.

As NCE's student guide to getting a job in civil engineering - sent this week free to every student studying a civil related course in the UK - highlights, the world of work is changing. Employers need a much wider range of skills in their businesses today.

Clinton knows this. Unless the ICE continues, he says, to morph into an organisation that is relevant to its members and to the businesses they work in, both will question the value of belonging. And the profession cannot afford to let that happen.

So it is worrying to see that there is still confusion within business over how to ensure young engineers are provided with the right academic 'further learning' to supplement more practical degree qualifications.

Professional institutions like the ICE must start to dominate this debate if they are to win credibility with business.

And it is precisely this business focus that Clinton and the ICE need to concentrate on.

Years spent toiling in the regions will have given Clinton a really clear view of what will and will not work for the ICE. And over the last few years he and his presidential team have had the opportunity to prod Council towards enacting this vision.

Next week he will stand proud above his creation - an Institution of Civil Engineers with a widened membership, fully devolved regional structure, five year business plan that enables the ICE to concentrate on the issues members want and a budget for communication.

Hopefully the membership will appreciate the effort and start to notice a difference. But it is no dead cert. After all, of the 73,000 members worldwide, only a minority really have an active involvement in ICE. And buy-in from a few top company bosses does not constitute the whole industry.

Yet based on the solid foundation already created, things look very positive for the ICE over the next few years. But as Clinton and his successors know, turning 'looking positive' into real success will all be down to delivering to expectation.

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