Next year the ICE celebrates its 200th birthday. This year, I complete six years as West Midlands council member and over 45 years in industry.
David johns larger crop
Our industry has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 150 years. I graduated at the start of the digital age. CAD was in its infancy; calculators were replacing slide rules. Computers, and now mobile phones and tablets have transformed our daily lives. Time pressures have increased as communication speeds and methods have changed and prices for services are squeezed.
Our industry is safer. Asset information modelling is in its infancy and is transforming how we develop, operate and manage infrastructure assets. Civil engineers are involved with a wider variety of professions on projects. Boundaries between clients, consultants and contractors have been blurred and businesses have become huge, global operations.
When I joined Council, meetings were formal and very boring, with occasional illuminating debates to wake you from slumber. This has changed. More delegated power to our Executive provides Council with time to consider the strategic development of the ICE and our member services. We now have two-day annual strategy meetings and a rolling three-year business plan. Cabinet-style meetings and workshops, focused on strategic plan development, constructively engage the intellect of our council members. Main committees are empowered to make decisions, subject to approval by Executive rather than submission to Council.
Meeting members’ needs
The ICE is adapting to meet the changing needs of our members, industry and society. Digitisation of the library, a key asset, and overhauling membership systems is making them accessible and useful. Re-structuring membership grades opens AMICE to other professionals working in our industry and broadens the appeal of our institution without diluting professional standards. Using the magnificent library at One Great George Street for key exhibitions opens our institution to the wider public. Proactive engagement with political parties and key government departments in Westminster ensures they understand the benefit of continued investment in infrastructure. Academic and industrial partnerships are strengthening our relationships with educationalists and employers. Broadening our global presence has started.
There is still much to do. Devolution of power to the UK regions means we must spread our engagement activity to the new authorities.
Maintaining our digital offer will be challenging as technology (and how it is used) changes so rapidly. Digital development is led by multi-billion dollar companies – how can the ICE afford to invest in this area?
Council is more diverse and younger, but is still majority white and male. To attract young people and more diverse members, we must show how society benefits from civil engineering. ICE200 will kick start this.
The ICE is fitter, but success over another 200 years will require speedier adaptation to meet the changing needs of our members and society – without diluting our core strengths of knowledge and professionalism. Why not volunteer to help us respond, or even stand for council? This is a challenging and exciting time for ICE and you can make a difference.
● David Johns is ICE Council member for the West Midlands