NEW PRESIDENT Joe Dwyer focused firmly on the future in his presidential address at the ICE this week in a speech entitled 'Is the Institution of Civil Engineers relevant?'
This, he said, was a question often raised in relation to a number of institutions - 'our own included' because of the 'unfortunate' perception of professional bodies today.
Dwyer set out to demonstrate that not only is the ICE becoming more relevant, but as the profession continues to diversify and 'push against the boundaries of technological advance' it will become 'increasingly essential'.
Intellectual exchange and a more marked process of continuing professional development will be key, he said, but some stark facts have to be faced. He suggested that an impartial observer would conclude that the ICE is regarded as no more than a qualifying body by its members, with the majority playing little part in its activities after qualification.
'They do not participate in technical committees, learned society activities, membership issues, international affairs, nor in short, any activities generated at Great George Street.' More importantly, he said, 'they do not support the valiant efforts of the local associations'.
Dwyer praised the 'outstanding dedication' of the 'active members' who give a disproportionate amount of their free time to furthering the learned society status of the Institution.
However, despite being 'constantly in awe' of the voluntary service that the active members give, 'it is the same gallant band who report for duty each year'.
Attracting and engaging more of the 80,000 members is, therefore, the first challenge of his presidential year. Dwyer sees it as particularly important to recognise the contribution that can be made by graduates and students.
Dwyer then moved on to the longer term future of the ICE. He explained that with the number of retired members growing and university graduates falling, it was vital routes to membership were simplified in an embracing, inclusive way if membership of ICE was not to decline.
Dwyer said the ICE was a 'welcoming, inclusive body, determined to give each and every civil engineer the opportunity to achieve his or her potential'.
He recognised the need to give more direct support to the local associations, and explained the importance of the associations in delivering the ICE's role as a centre for learning. Greater local association participation would be achieved, he said, by extending learned society activities, affiliates and special interest groups into the regions.
Dwyer is happy to be taking charge of the ICE at a time when its Integrated Communications Plan (NCE 14 September) is generating a 'new urgency, both at the ICE and in the local associations'.
Another key area now receiving attention is the promotion of best practice. This is an area the ICE is often criticised for , particularly from government, and it has now been given a 'greater focus and urgency'.
Internationally, ICE membership is booming, Dwyer said, and 2001 will see discussions to work more closely with the American Society of Civil Engineers move forward.
He finished by contending that the ICE, 'far from not being relevant, is partway through a process of modernisation that will make it essential not only to be a member, but also to participate'.
This, he said, 'will be achieved by teamwork: a committed active membership working with an equally committed executive with a common agenda and a shared vision.'