Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

It's time to have a go at rebranding and raising the profile of engineers

“Can civil engineering as a brand be revived?”

There’s a great letter from Bristol University’s David Blockley in NCE this week. Responding to letters last week bemoaning the lack of protection around the title “engineer”, he observes that actually it is a much broader image problem. He argues that people just don’t know or understand what it is true that engineers do.

I touched on the same issue last week when I urged engineers to combat the complacency of younger generations towards infrastructure – and the ignorance of much of the media regarding the cost of it – by getting collectively more vocal on the need for it.

In his letter Blockley highlights how the national media talks mainly of science and technology or transport and the environment. There are no engineering correspondents. As such, he says, engineering issues are squeezed out or reported from an inappropriate perspective.

Take the BBC, he says. He highlights how since 1942 just five engineers have been seen worthy of gracing its Desert Island Discs Radio 4 show – hardly an endorsement of the pivotal importance of engineering. This fact is not lost on the engineering institutions, least of all the ICE which is right now striving to raise £5M in its Shaping the World Appeal. Money raised will be used transform the ICE’s Great George Street HQ into what it describes as a “properly constituted global civil engineering centre” where the greatest minds can gather to solve global challenges and where young people can come and be inspired to become the next generation of civil engineers.

It’s a laudable initiative. But I wonder whether some of that cash, if donated, should not be spent getting a serious media consultant involved? Is it time that civil engineering got a rebrand?

I wonder what the experts would say. Can civil engineering as a brand be revived? Or should we cut and run and call the profession something else? Has “infrastructure” got to be part of it?

I’m not calling on stock market listed firms to shed their associations to engineering and return to calling themselves “support service providers” as was common as a share price boosting manoeuvre in the early to mid-1990s. That was a horrible period and did much to persuade a generation of civil engineers to seek a career elsewhere.

But for my mind, engineers do fix and operate flood defences. They even mend boilers and washing machines. If the man who last month restored happiness and harmony to my house by getting my misfiring boiler going again and wasn’t using “ the application  of science to the design, building and use of machines, constructions etcetera” (the Oxford English Dictionary definition of an engineer) then I don’t know who is.

What we are talking about is elevating the specific things that we do that we truly hold dear: designing and building super-fast railways, super-tall skyscrapers and super-vital water supplies. There’s a name for that; I just don’t know what it is. Any ideas?

Readers' comments (1)

  • I think a lot of the animosity is due to the amount of time it takes to become a professional engineer (Which then is not subsequently protected as a title like Dr. for example) versus the perceived time it takes to put an ad in the paper describing yourself as a boiler engineer etc. Clearly there is time spent in both areas becoming and proving competence, and so it's perhaps more to do with technicalities in what we refer to ourself as.

    I get the feeling a number of tradesmen are rebranding themselves with "Engineer" in the title, which offends those who see that as only being applicable to those who are registered with the Engineering Council, and perhaps then frustration comes from the general public not seeming to know what "Engineering" is and expecting if you call youself an Engineer that you can fix something.

    Perhaps the title is now too broad to be clearly argued one way or the other, and we need to clarify the actual job role for each engineer, as many companies already do. So no "I'm an engineer", but "I'm a Design/Site/Sales/Maintenance Engineer" etc.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.