The tortuous route to chartered status could be about to get a lot smoother.
The ICE has acknowledged that decisive action within the next few months is needed to buck the trend of its 'ageing Membership'. It has been recognised that the average age of engineers attaining Chartered status needs to drop from the current 30 to 28 or even 27 in the next five years if the ICE is to survive as the 'premier' professional institution.
ICE President Roger Sainsbury said last week that a task force was to research why graduates are taking so long to gain chartership. The task force will clarify whether it is a 'lack of zeal from young people, a lack of enthusiasm from employers or a too cumbersome system' that is the underlying cause (see News).
However, ICE's professional development chairman Mark Whitby already accepts that the Institution's qualification system is at fault. He will propose steps to fastrack young engineers of 'outstanding quality' after graduation to ensure they do not slip through the net.
'We need to loosen up a little bit, recognise quality where quality is and encourage those people to come forward as early as possible,' said Whitby.
He also believes less emphasis should be placed on length and diversity of experience gained before chartership.
'The examination process needs to be looked at so that an outstanding 25 year old can come forward with three years experience on just one project. That person's contribution could be matched to an examiner with similar experience. A good engineer from the contracting world shouldn't necessarily feel the need to spend a year in a design office [or vice versa].'
Whitby's suspicions are confirmed by graduate engineer Ben Brookes, a G&S activist who recently hit the headlines in NCE for carrying out research that claimed only 14% of graduates were actively pursuing chartered status.
He claimed good young engineers aspired to MICE, but were shunning professional qualification because they thought it involved 'too much time and energy' to pursue.
He added that the high dropout rate among civil engineers going for MICE was encouraged by the belief that it is possible to hold down responsible positions without becoming chartered.
Twenty four year old Brookes, who graduated in 1997 and works for Manchester based civils and structurals consultant Martin Stockley Associates, said he was considering going for IStructE chartership ahead of civils because it was easier, with a one-off exam and no lengthy Continuing Professional Development requirement.
Certain ICE Council members last week blamed employers for not doing more to encourage graduate engineers to go for membership.
This accusation is rejected by training managers who claim they simply facilitate the needs of their graduates.
Ove Arup's Roger Chantrelle said: 'We provide the supportive framework within which motivated graduates can achieve professional qualification, but in the end it's not our policy to spoon feed intelligent people.'