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Letters: Reasons not to dumb down achieving chartered status

I read with interest Philip Brown’s letter to the editor questioning the requirement for engineers to have achieved a masters degree before being able to proceed to Chartered Professional Review (Letters last week). In his letter he describes this requirement as “an additional barrier” to those that have not graduated with such a qualification.

As an engineer who is in exactly this situation (having qualified this year as an Incorporated Engineer based on my academic qualifications) I am in the position that if I want to become chartered, I must complete further learning. So that is what I am currently doing. I am working full time for a contractor and studying part time to hopefully graduate in two years’ time with an MSc in Construction and Project Management. At that stage I hope to apply for CPR progressive.

But I don’t view this as a barrier. I see this as an exciting opportunity to develop as an engineer. We continually read letters and emails lamenting how the public don’t view civil engineers in the same light as other professions, and how we fail to attract the brightest and best people into the industry. If we don’t challenge ourselves to achieve these goals, then how can we expect others to recognise what we actually do?


Working for chartered membership: Should be a challenge

If you look at ICE document MGN3, and the attributes that are placed under CEng, you will note that there are some that refer to knowledge and understanding, and technical attributes that require academic learning and research. Nearly all require continuous improvement. Where better to start than continually improving yourself?

I would agree that academic qualification is no more important than the other attributes to become a good engineer, but to improve in one generally improves performance in the others.

Becoming a chartered engineer should be difficult. It should require a lot of effort. It should make those that achieve that status stand out from the crowd. Removing “barriers” such as the need for a high standard of academic achievement could make it easier for some to achieve chartered status, but is that what is best for the profession?

If we want the public to recognise what we do, we need to set standards that the public recognise. And they tend to start with academic qualifications.

● Andrew Hull (M),


Clearing up some QUEST misconceptions

I am a great fan of the ICE’s QUEST scholarships scheme as well as being its chairman for the last seven years.

I would like to correct the serious misunderstanding expressed in a letter published by the NCE last month suggesting that “anybody with less than A* [A levels] is generally not considered” (NCE 4 December 2014).

A few minutes reference to the QUEST website will reveal:

  • “…a minimum of ABB predicted A2 level grades or equivalent.”
  • ” …scholarships are awarded on the basis of a commitment to civil engineering, academic ability, leadership skills, aptitude for teamwork, ambition, initiative, strength of character and determination….”

My experience over the seven years and some 2,800 or so applicants is that the successful 100 candidates brought to interview each year contribute hugely to charities, communities, sport, coaching and mentoring and are indeed the characters who will lead our industry in the future. To paraphrase Chris Hughes’ final comment: It is indeed the person who is selected, not the qualification.

For the record:

  • Over 32,000 fantastic ­Institution members make a voluntary donation to QUEST every year
  • 25 fantastic companies co-sponsor students and give them work experience and mentoring
  • 88 fantastic students received a £10,000 award this year
  • 35 fantastic technicians received a £1,500 award this year to support their studies (many part time)
  • 37 travel awards and six continuing education awards have been made this year
  • Six Ghulam Haider awards have been made this year

Through the QUEST awards, the Institution, its members and partners are today helping to deliver the great engineers of tomorrow.
QUESTastic indeed!

  • Professor Quentin Leiper, chairman, QUEST Committee,

Please give me a definition of feminism

I write regarding the recent editorial “Feminism and pride: key engineering qualities” (Comment, 18 December).

Working in project management means I work across the engineering industry at times. The ongoing campaign urging all engineers and science leaders to label themselves as feminists troubled me and I have the following queries:

  • Feminism is a belief system and like any other needs to be arrived at through personal choice. Is it the place of an engineering magazine to be promulgating an ideology?
  • Feminism is multi-stranded and, in the common view, the version in the 1960s and 1970s around equal pay etcetera was essential and fair but the 2014/15 version has several deeply-worrying aspects, for example positive discrimination against men, most particularly in the form of mentoring, grants and promotions exclusively for women.

Do you support such special treatment, and is this what you mean by feminism?

  • Peter Leckie,

Equalism is a far better position than feminism

I have been campaigning for years to redress statutory discrimination against men (unequal pension ages and related statutory benefits, lack of widowers’ benefits, etcetera), but I consider myself an equalist and not a masculinist. I fully support equal rights and opportunity for all.

I, therefore, do not take kindly to the editor of an otherwise excellent engineering magazine exhorting me to become a feminist (Comment, 18 December). Especially as he does not helpfully say what kind of feminist, since there is a range to choose from. Surely, he doesn’t mean a radical feminist from the extreme end of the range, who is concerned essentially with the welfare and empowerment of women and with little concern for the effects on men? Some of these are still influential in certain political quarters. Or, if he really means the other less misandrist end of the range - equality feminists - why doesn’t he make this clear? Or, better still, exhort all of us to become equalists so that the sexual politics is taken out of it? After all, some women are themselves now questioning feminism as such, since they believe that, not only are some outcomes unfair to men, but that in its radical form it will eventually destroy the family.

  • David Yarwood (M),
  • Editor’s note: NCE is calling on engineers to align themselves to the dictionary definition of a feminist, that is someone who is “an advocate of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. That is absolutely not the same as encouraging positive discrimination (and so by default discrimination against men). But it is a strong call to action no less, and one that we believe is necessary to drive out the apathy around gender equality that we have observed pervading in our industry. We shall continue to raise awareness of this serious issue.

New government must say no to fracking in UK

During the early days of talk regarding the possibility of extensive fracking in the UK, I recall a BBC Radio 5 Live debate on the subject. One of the pro-fracking guests (I apologise but I can’t recall his name) was highlighting the significant sustainability advantages of fracking our land. His argument for this culminated in a statement declaring that “there could well be a 10 year supply of natural gas” resulting from all of this new technology activity. Somehow I suspect his definition of a sustainable activity differs from that of most engineers.

This year will see a General Election. I challenge the incoming government to say “no” to fracking; “no” to squeezing the last drops of hydrocarbons from beneath our feet; and “yes” to putting the same effort which would have gone into fracking into renewables.

  • Richard Houghton (M), Sine Aequalis, 14 Duke Street, Buxton SK17 9AB

Garden Bridge plan a folly in a time of cuts

It is good to hear that our political leaders have solved all our financial problems and can afford to spend millions on a nice Garden Bridge for Londoners (News last week), while local authorities throughout the rest of the land are suffering massive cuts, likely to result in cuts to basic services. No wonder politicians are not trusted by the electorate.

  • Roger Stanbury (M Retd),

Have bus drivers lost the skill to keep on track?

I note again the apparent need for expensive bus guide ­structures on an ex-heavy rail route - this time in Edinburgh - seemingly to keep buses at the Leigh end of this route from straying off course. Is this because bus drivers cannot be trusted to concentrate all the way to Leigh without directional help?

  • Alan Fell (M),

Clarification on STEM and ICE ambassadors

As I am the “grey-haired” ICE ambassador in your picture (NCE 20 November), may I offer the following thoughts to your correspondents Andrew Stanford and John Patch? Stanford’s suggestion that the majority of ICE members are designers and only rarely visit a site strikes me as being a fairly narrow view of the role of the professional engineer in the construction industry. However, I acknowledge that the use of PPE on this popular schools exercise is to some degree over the top, but my personal experience is that the chances of excited youngsters harming themselves or others is quite high and should be mitigated by the routine use of well-fitting hard hats and particularly gloves. The hi-vis vests and goggles are more cosmetic.

Engineering in schools

Vital work: Taking civils to schools

Patch makes the valid point that schools welcome our visits with open arms. One of the problems that has emerged in the ICE North East Region (and, according to my grapevine, some of the other ICE regions) lies in the unknown number of ICE members who are active as schools ambassadors for their employers rather than directly for ICE. Add to this the confusion which exists in some circles between STEM ambassadors (regulated by STEMNET) and ICE/company ambassadors and it is not entirely surprising that some schools manage to get two or three visits per year while others are still waiting for their first visit by volunteers badged as “ICE ambassadors”.

There is nothing to stop an ICE ambassador who is registered with STEMNET from reporting the same school visit to both organisations. Such double-counting might upset the statisticians but is of little relevance to the core aim of attracting young people into careers in civil engineering.

Finally, Stanford mentions receiving a message from the mother of a seven year old after one of his school visits. My favourite thank you letter came from a young lad who wrote: “Thank you for showing us all about bridges. You took my mind off my grandad’s operation.” This is one aspect of civil engineering that certainly was not covered in my degree many years ago.

  • Mike Gardiner (M), chairman, education panel, ICE North East,

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