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Engineering Council's demise paves the way for a bigger vision

ICE news

THE DEMISE of the Engineering Council is all but assured, with the Council's senate set to vote itself into extinction within the next two months.

In its place will be the Engineering & Technology Board (ETB), a competely new organisation championing the 'wider engineering and technology community' and exploiting the 'fundamental role the engineering community plays in enhancing UK competitiveness'.

The shake up has been driven by government and is likely to prove controversial. It hopes to provide a single voice for engineering by boosting the number represented by the ETB from the current 250,000 EngC registrants while at the same time not lowering standards.

The ETB has identified two distinct groups not embraced by the EngC, explained ETB project director Paul Langdell.

'There is a heartland of engineers who, for whatever reason, choose not to belong to the EngC.

Addressing this sector is not controversial, ' said Langdell, highlighting that there are around 600,000 engineers in institution membership.

More controversial is the desire to embrace those such as project managers who work in the engineering profession but are not actually engineers.

'Nobody wants to degrade the quality of membership, ' said Langdell. 'But if these people are esteemed members of the engineering community then perhaps there should be other boxes to tick. Many institutions, including the ICE, are widening their gates.'

He insists that, ultimately, the changes will benefit everyone as the number of professionals represented will increase.

ICE chief executive Mike Casebourne backs the proposals: 'There is a very real awareness of the need to create a more effective, all-together body, focused not only on registrants but on the wider engineering community, showing leadership and promoting their interests, ' he explained.

'The ETB with elected panels and with the democratic process rooted in the institutions, should have the effect of engaging members in a way that was previously not possible.'

The need for change was first introduced by science and technology minister Lord Sainsbury in December 1999, when he challenged EngC chairman Robert Hawley to consider how the Council might add more value to the wider engineering community.

In February 2001 Sainsbury gave the move further impetus by pledging government funding for the professional engineering institutions to join forces with industry and academia and commit to establishing the ETB by October this year (NCE 22 February).

The work is now complete, with the proposals to be presented to the Engineering Council senate on 3 October before a vote is taken on 6 December.

ICE Council this week backed the plans, and will urge all ICE members on the EngC senate to vote in favour.

The ETB has two main functions: regulation and promotion.

Registration and regulation of professional standards will be performed by a New Regulatory Body (NRB). The NRB will inherit the Royal Charter of the EngC, suitably amended, pending approval by the Privy Council early next year.

Promotion will be carried out by the main body of the ETB, a company limited by guarantee.

The ETB will inherit the assets of the EngC and will be established as soon as the Senate approves the move.

The ETB will comprise a high level board, supported by panels addressing concerns and issues.

Initially four panels will consider communications, business and industry, life-long learning and development, and the wider community (see box).

A budget of £6M a year has been set for the first three years, around 80% of which will come from EngC registrants. The remainder will be found from sponsors and affiliates. Around £2M a year will go the NRB with the remainder going to the ETB.

To reflect the financial stake held by registrants, a fifth registrants panel will allow their voice to be heard.

After three years it is expected that 50% of the ETB's income will come from specific, project based funding, compared to just 10-15% now.

INFOPLUS www. engc. org. uk

Structure of the ETB

The fourteen man ETB board will be balanced with representatives from education, academia, business and industry, the institutions, and will include five panel chairmen who will be experts in their fields.

The panels will address issues and concerns, initially under the headings: communications, the wider community, business and industry, life-long learning and development, and registrants.

The New Regulatory Body will be responsible for self-regulation of the engineering profession, closely tied to the ETB yet independent, to exercise professional judgement.

The board will have 22 members, with 12 members representing the largest 12 institutions - which includes the ICE. Three will come from the other 24 smaller institutions, and seven will be nominated by the ETB.

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