Since the ICE was founded in 1818, it has been a bastion of communal knowledge – generations of engineers have studied together, learned from each other, and debated new innovations.
But as time has moved on, the way we create infrastructure has revolutionised to an extent that the founders of the Institution could scarcely have contemplated.
A modern structure or tunnel is a complex web of different elements requiring a mixture of disciplines and expertise. A typical building is designed by a combination of engineers, architects, technologists and other disciplines which didn’t exist two centuries ago.
We can only imagine what innovations and technologies will exist in another 200 years, and this will herald more and more disciplines and specialties each playing a role in designing, building and maintaining infrastructure. These professionals will have varied educational backgrounds, qualifications and job titles. They will bring different skills, ideas and knowledge to the table.
I believe that if the ICE is to remain current and relevant it too must evolve and embrace these professionals into its membership.
To do this, the ICE needs to take a wider approach to its definition and the qualifications it expects of its members.
Without broadening its scope, the ICE is at risk of becoming narrowly defined and increasingly irrelevant as the modern world evolves quickly around it. Aged 16, I decided to study physics at university. During a work experience placement, surrounded by mechanical engineers designing equipment for CERN, I decided I wanted to be an engineer. I studied a masters in structural engineering. During this time, I approached the ICE to join as a graduate member. I was denied because of my degree choices.
Fast forward a decade and I have designed and built buildings, train stations and bridges. I helped design the foundations and crown of our country’s tallest structure. I have relentlessly promoted our profession in the media, I have presented to over 10,000 people, and I’ve just submitted a manuscript for a popular engineering book to share some of the amazing stories of how engineers have solved challenges throughout history.
Am I adding knowledge and helping to progress civil engineering through my work? If yes, then I should be part of ICE. I should not be excluded simply because of a choice I made when I was 16. People should be judged on quality, impact and contribution, not on the route they chose as a child.
There is a huge contingent of people without civil engineering degrees who are shaping the future of civil engineering, and the ICE needs to acknowledge them as a part of the conversation.
This month, ICE members are voting on a proposal that would make the Associate Member (AMICE) grade accessible to a wider group of built environment professionals. I believe this is a good first step in embracing a more diverse membership. If this proposal succeeds, professionals who work in the built environment will be able to participate in the exchange of knowledge within the ICE. This, in turn, will help to ensure the ICE remains relevant, credible, and is a stronger united voice for infrastructure.
- Roma Agrawal MA (Hons) MSc DIC CEng MIStructE MIET FRICS is a design manager at Interserve