'OLD, CLASSIC and stately, but cumbersome tired and out of date.' This is the image of the ICE portrayed by Rob Jackson, North West Association chairman, at his chairman's address in Manchester recently.
In the week that incoming President Joe Dwyer asked 'Is the ICE relevant?', Jackson likened the Institution to a Victorian wardrobe, 'large, old and full of interesting objects', but asked: 'Does it really fit into our modern lifestyle?'
Jackson firmly believed that a major shake-up within the ICE is what is needed.
He pointed out that of the 5,500 members in his association, only 400 of these members actually took part in Institution affairs. But why should they, he asked, when in his own experience of 25 years in industry, the ICE did little to promote his standing in society.
This point is driven home by a recent survey that asked 11-15 year old children to name a famous engineer, he said. The most popular answer? Kevin Webster of Coronation Street. The public needs to be made more aware of our achievements, Jackson said.
'Celebrating the Millennium with a tent and a wheel was a wasted opportunity'.
But do civil engineers deserve a higher status? Jackson suggested that the risks of working in the civil engineering profession are huge, but the benefits of being in the profession in no way reflect this.
He quoted a graduate engineer who, having recently left the industry, said 'the construction industry has not evolved to meet the expectations of graduate civil engineers'.
A heated debate followed this quote, which left the audience divided over changes to routes to membership that would remove the need for site, drafting or CAD experience in graduate training.
Jackson pledged that he would personally see to it that this issue and any others members may have were placed before the ICE decision makers. If they are not, he said, the ICE wardrobe would become riddled with woodworm.
After a professional career of nearly 20 years in industry Rob Jackson joined Liverpool John Moores University in 1994 as head of civil and environmental engineering. His industrial experience was gained throughout the UK and the Middle East. He is now Parkman professor of water and environmental engineering at JMU.