Geographically Hong Kong is a small place. I therefore often bump into many familiar faces at ICE events. At a certificate presentation ceremony a couple of years ago, I started a conversation with an extremely joyous young lady with a familiar face.
She happened to be a certificate recipient I had met before. Her husband received the certificate the year before and it was her turn to receive it. I asked her why she and her husband were so anxiously seeking a UK qualification in Hong Kong. She said they were planning to work outside Hong Kong, possibly in Australia or South East Asia, and they thought an ICE qualification was better suited in pursuing their dream than membership of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE).
A professional engineer qualification does open up working opportunities and facilitate job mobility in some parts of the world. In Hong Kong, the qualification requirement for government engineer posts is membership of the HKIE or of comparable standard. Key position holders of major engineering projects also require similar professional qualifications.
The ICE chartered civil engineer qualification is assessed as comparable to the HKIE’s and therefore meets the employment requirement.
Employment opportunity is, however, not the only reason for engineering graduates to get an ICE professional qualification, or any other comparable qualifications.
Some governments, such as the government of Hong Kong, require the engineers they employ to have a professional qualification, and this is telling. Infrastructure construction and maintenance is paramount to social and economic development.
It is expansive and uses a significant portion of government expenditure. It is therefore necessary to put qualified engineers in charge of the infrastructure programme, in the same way you would put other qualified professionals, such as medical doctors and lawyers, in charge of the other important services to the society. It is a responsible act of the government to employ qualified engineers to ensure the quality of the infra-structure programme and effective use of resources. In doing so it also recognises the importance of our contributions to the society and raises our social status.
ICE has long been advocating the value of a professional qualification in civil engineering - in and outside the UK. In a report submitted to the Indonesian government in 1993 it suggested “society needs to be certain that its professional engineers are properly qualified and competent”, and “compulsory registration, coupled with full membership of a professional institution, is suggested as a further move to raise standards and acknowledge the importance of the contribution made by civil engineers to society”.
The young member I met certainly has reasons to rejoice. Not only are she and her husband now able to pursue their dreams, but she also should feel proud to have reached a professional level that is recognised by society.
- Patrick Chan is ICE regional director, Hong Kong