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Why we value technicians

Adrian Coy

Boost for engineering technician status.

The ICE is rightly proud of its gold standard reputation for membership. Becoming a professionally qualified civil engineering technician or civil engineer is not easy and nor should it be. Behind the stringent standards set for the Professional Reviews lies a well-proven model of professional development underpinned by a foundation of knowledge. It is a model that is admired and replicated elsewhere in the world. The ICE’s values of knowledge sharing, adherence to a code of professional conduct, and professionalism through the maintenance and development of competence throughout one’s career, are also admired and replicated elsewhere.

So when the ICE Council defined its vision to be recognised globally as the qualifying body for a broad spectrum of activity in the built environment, it created a challenge going forward - to find a way to expand the scope for membership, enabling a wider community to engage with ICE members and adding to the ICE’s rich tapestry of knowledge - while at the same time upholding the ICE’s reputation. It also presented an opportunity to review the current structure, simplify where possible, and importantly, redress any imbalances.

The latter has prompted a review of TMICE in parallel with welcoming technicians qualifying through apprenticeships.

Technicians have long been undervalued in industry and the profession. Maintaining a membership distinction in the Institution between professionally qualified civil engineering technicians and professionally qualified civil engineers is somewhat anomalous in the 21st century. Other institutions embrace their technicians as “full” members and use the Engineering Council titles to distinguish EngTech from IEng and CEng.

The ICE has in part already accommodated this with IEng and CEng, so the Council’s desire to include technicians within MICE sends a strong message to the technician community of the value ICE places on their roles in the profession.

The change would mirror the aims of the EngTechNow campaign - a joint initiative between ICE, IMechE and IET, in conjunction with the Engineering Council - to boost the status of engineering technicians and to register 100,000 technicians by 2020.

The campaign was first announced by the prime minister in 2013, and officially launched during National Apprenticeship Week in March this year, with the support of an initial £1M donation from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. I am pleased to say it is going from strength to strength.

The March launch saw commitment from senior figures at Crossrail, global defence company BAE Systems, Bam Nuttall, Atkins and NG Bailey, to increase the number of EngTechs in their own workforce. Blane Judd - former executive director at BLTK Consulting - has just been appointed as CEO, and a further £2M donation to the campaign from the Gatsby Foundation was confirmed last month.

Our next step is to reach a significantly wider range of large and small engineering companies and help them recognise that those who have come through vocational and apprenticeship routes can also achieve professional status as Engineering Technicians. Find out more at www.engtechnow.com

» Adrian Coy is the ICE’s vice president for membership

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