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ICE plans fast track to lower Chartered membership age

YOUNG 'OUTSTANDING' civil engineers will be given a fast track route to Chartered status under a new plan being considered by the Institution of Civil Engineers, it has emerged this week.

The plan is one of several to be assessed by a new task force announced in a paper presented to ICE Council last week. This aims to speed up the training system and reduce, by up to four years, the 'unacceptable' average age of engineers when they become Chartered.

The announcement coincided with publication of research by the ICE showing that the number of engineers on training agreements with their employers has nearly halved since 1989.

Results showed that over the last decade the number of graduates under agreement fell from 2005 to 1125 this year. This is considered to be one of the best routes for engineers to become Chartered quickly.

ICE Senior Vice President Professor George Fleming was critical of this situation and said: 'Employers are failing the system. They are not doing enough to encourage engineers on to training agreements.'

The task force will question why engineers do not sit their professional exam until they are, on average, over 30 years old. The fast track qualification route, removing traditional experience barriers for the best engineers, is thought to be high on their list of recommendations (see Analysis page 16).

The paper also expressed fears that engineers were beginning to conclude that career progress was possible without becoming Chartered.

'From the age of 26 onwards capable people will be doing seriously responsible work,' the paper says. 'If they are not then Chartered, we spread a message that one can do seriously responsible work without being Chartered. If such a message becomes accepted as the conventional wisdom, our whole concept of qualification is under challenge.'

ICE's professional development committee chairman Mark Whitby said that the proposed changes would have 'implications for the relationship between examiners, training officers and the examined'. As accredited university courses were now a minimum of four years, professional qualification could be made easier and quicker, he added.

'I truly believe that in five years time, the average age could be reduced from 30 to 27 or even 26,' said Whitby, who added that the task force would make its recommendations to the ICE Executive in three to four months.

Council was told that by reducing the average age of chartership, the potentially 'radical' dent to Institution income caused by its post-SARTOR New Routes to Membership initiative could be offset. ICE's coffers could be boosted, it heard, by £150,000 a year.

The task force will operate as an impartial think-tank to appraise the current training system run by ICE's professional development division. Its precise make-up has not yet been confirmed. It is likely to include a recently qualified graduate but it is not yet known whether employers will be represented.

Damian Arnold

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