EMPLOYERS ARE to get the power to award professional qualifications to their own engineers under plans being drawn up by the UK's Engineering & Technology Board (ETB).
Under the plan the ETB will accredit employers who will then be able to integrate routes to a chartered engineering qualification within their own training programmes.
The ETB, which has replaced the Engineering Council, wants to tap into a vast resource of up to 1.4M engineers who it believes are not served by the current qualification structure.
At the moment professional institutions such as the Institution of Civil Engineers are the only organisations able to confer chartered status on engineers.
The ETB estimates that there are around 2M professionals working in the engineering and technology industry, yet only around 600,000 are registered with the ETB through professional institutions.
The ETB has set a date of April next year to introduce a new professional qualification, chartered technologist. It will sit alongside the existing chartered engineer qualification.
A chartered technologist is likely to be a multi-disciplinarian with a professional knowledge of science, engineering and technology, but who lacks the specific technical knowledge to become a chartered engineer.
'The message to firms is that 'you know what a chartered engineer looks like, so you confer it', said ETB chief executive Alan Clark.
To become accredited, firms would be subjected to an independent audit, and the whole process will be controlled by Engineering Council (UK), the regulatory arm of the ETB.
The move could result in the demise of the incorporated engineer qualification, which the ETB sees as a failure.
'The IEng is a very valuable qualification, but it is small and getting smaller. It is not successful, ' said Clark. 'So will it survive? We can't answer that.'
The Institution of Civil Engineers said that it would support the chartered technologist qualification, but only if it could be shown to be adding value.
'If all you have to do to get this qualification is time serve, then where is the value in that?' said ICE professional development director Jon Prichard.
The ETB is using the new proposals to try and reverse the year-on-year decline in Engineering Council registered engineers.
'We have one objective, and one objective only, ' said Clark.
'To ensure the supply of science, engineering and technology skills better matches and stimulates market needs.'