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Talking Point with John Byrne

Royal Academy of Engineering president Sir John Parker recently said: “Every time I visit engineering companies… the common refrain is we want to expand, we want to recruit but we can’t find skilled people” and the same is true for geotechnics

This year Byrne Looby were featured in the NCE’s Top 20 Recruiters’ list, so although we continue to grow our expansion is slowed by the challenge faced in finding the right staff. We seek out candidates with strong critical thinking skills, as we often develop solutions using first principles engineering. We have
found that candidates with professional accreditations are more likely to have the skills and technical understanding we are looking for, however these do not always ensure the competencies we require.

It can be difficult to find experienced staff with the right skills. Like most organisations we place a high emphasis on internal training and learning, growing and promoting staff throughout the organisation. However, this takes time and, even with high retention rates, to expand we need to bring new members to the team.

A study by the Royal Academy of Engineering found that the median age of chartered engineer’s rises 10 years for every 14 years that elapse, suggesting that the number of young chartered engineers is in decline. The study also found that demand for engineers is pervasive throughout the economy, engineering graduates are prized for their capabilities and there is competition for these graduates in non-engineering roles. The potential for greater rewards in other sectors of the economy for high achievers is a core challenge that the engineering sector as a whole must face up to.

I believe that high calibre engineers would welcome an opportunity to demonstrate formally that they are among the industry’s top performers

Achieving the title of chartered engineer is confirmation that engineers have reached a high level of professional competency and the industry rewards this achievement with increased remuneration. However, this status can be achieved after around five years of practice, and in a career that might span 40 years or more there is no obvious next step in the accreditation process, especially in the 10 to 15 years following chartership.

I believe that high calibre engineers would welcome an opportunity to demonstrate formally through accreditation or professional status that they are among the industry’s top performers. This would have the dual benefit of informing potential employers of the calibre of the candidate and providing a mechanism for increased rewards for the individual engineer. A process combining examination, project work and peer review could be used to establish a level of engineering excellence with an associated title.

For example medical consultants often have 10 years or more of training and development prior to attaining consultant status, however in becoming a consultant they achieve a prestigious title which is valuable to them and they are financially rewarded for this. Providing engineers with an opportunity to similarly set themselves apart would, I believe, attract them to the industry in greater numbers and motivate them to continue to up-skill for the future.

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