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Business studies route to MICE

RADICAL OVERHAUL of the Institution of Civil Engineers' core objectives for chartered engineers could give business studies greater prominence at the expense of technical training.

Immediate past president of the ICE David Green is working on proposals for engineers to get more business and commercial experience before sitting the Professional Review.

This renewed emphasis on business knowledge is intended to match the changing role of engineers in the commercial world.

Green is investigating proposals - with the help of universities and business schools - which could see the ICE's Chartered Professional Review automatically giving engineers part accreditation for a Master of Business Administration qualification.

So far he has talked with several universities and business schools and colleges and will report his findings to the ICE Executive in the next few months.

'Business awareness is very important to an engineer's training but it is unfair to expect undergraduate courses to build this in entirely,' said Green. 'We are talking to colleges about linking CPR to an MBA - with adjustment to the core objectives it would be a very attractive proposition.'

Green is keen to see young engineers help themselves to become more attractive to employers. Being able to get a head start towards a qualification such as an MBA would, he said, go some way to offsetting the amount of time it takes engineers to become chartered compared to other professions.

Green stressed, however, that not all engineers would be suited to extra business training. There will always be a need for engineers with expert technical knowledge, he pointed out.

'Construction is changing so rapidly that we cannot assume that the core objectives for being an engineer will stand still,' he said. 'As engineers we cannot afford to let professionals from other specialist areas such as project management take over these areas.'

ICE education, training and membership director Richard Larcombe confirmed that the core objectives were being revised in line with the recommendations of the ICE's Future Framework Commission and with the Engineering Council's SARTOR proposals. These should be ready for publication by the end of the year.

Although he could not confirm how far potential link ups with business schools had got, Larcombe said: 'I'm sure that we can do some streamlining to meet the business requirement, but I don't think we will have to do too much tailoring as the core objectives are already fairly broad.'

Increasing engineers' business skills is seen by many consultants as the key to their success in the changing marketplace. Already many actively encourage and fund their young engineers through MBA courses.

Mouchel business development director Mike Burr said business skills for its graduate engineers is a key part of the firm's market strategy. Each year it funds three graduate engineers through an MBA course - costing up to £12,000 each - and, he added, the competition for the places is fierce.

'We have an increasing number of people who are going to move into the business management side of the consultancy,' he said.

'We say to our graduates, you have a number of career opportunities in the firm - having an MBA gives young engineers very useful skills.'

However, while most consultants agree that engineers should have a strong commercial as well as technical sense, some are unconvinced of the value of an MBA. Ove Arup head of training Roger Chantrell said his firm did not discourage engineers from taking an MBA but no longer funded these studies.

'We seek to develop business skills but prefer to put our engineers on commercial management courses which focus on our business,' he said. 'We have an idea of what our business needs and we are not convinced that MBA programmes give enough payback.'

Antony Oliver

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