The ICE must urgently review its professional accreditation process to ensure engineers’ skills are fit for purpose throughout their careers and work with employers to ensure adequate auditing of skills compliance, an influential new review has said.
The call comes as the ICE ballots members on making continuing professional development (CPD) compulsory – members currently complete it on a voluntary basis – in line with recommendations from the Engineering Council. The proposals mean members will have to record CPD and this is set to be audited from January next year.
However, the ICE must go further to ensure this is more than a “tick in the box” exercise, according to the ICE Professional Skills review published today.
“The ICE’s qualification process is broadly fit for purpose,” says the review. “But the notion that a qualification, once achieved, is for life – is untenable.
“In our view, the ICE’s current voluntary CPD model is not an adequate means of assurance,” it added.
“We were very conscious that there were already a lot of people already looking at the issue of CPD,” review chair Ed McCann explained. McCann is ICE learned society president and a senior director at consultant Expedition Engineering. “But we really need to be answering the question of what is adequate with major employers for it to be meaningful.”
In addition to being compulsory, CPD should also be “related closely” to individuals’ required job skills and audited, the review added, a sentiment that echoes calls for more scrutiny of CPD procedures by ICE past president Peter Hansford following the Grenfell disaster.
“We welcome this move [to compulsory CPD], but our concerns are not merely about whether CPD is voluntary or compulsory,” the report continues. “If the purpose is to ensure that civil engineers remain competent in their jobs, then the content of the CPD must also be relevant to the engineer’s job. A more robust check of relevance should therefore be the next step for the engineering profession.”
One key issue highlighted by the review, is the misleading perception that civil engineering is almost entirely concerned with the design and construction of new – and often large scale – infrastructure. Meanwhile, qualification and requirements for practicing engineers fail to properly account for the skills of the vast number of civil engineers deployed in operating and maintaining, renewing and adapting, and decommissioning of existing infrastructure.
While stopping short of making specific demands on what the changes should be, McCann said it was vital that the ICE works with employers on the next steps.
“The ICE really needs to be answering the question [on how to change CPD procedures] with the major civil engineering employers,” said McCann. He added that the ICE could also do more to influence qualification through undergraduate and postgraduate programmes by convening more formal meetings at a national level between academic institutions and employers.
ICE membership director Seán Harris said: “We must move towards greater regulation and that is always a challenge.
“The agility required to meet industry’s needs would necessitate a prescriptive skillset, assessment, and qualification as well as assurance through some form of periodic revalidation or re-assessment. This would have to be imposed rather than taken up on a voluntary basis. The introduction of a more prescriptive CPD regime would have to be led by the Engineering Council.”
Read the review here.