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Mark Whitby Unchartered territory

I recently chaired a working party that has drawn up an action plan on the topic of earlier qualification. One of the questions asked by some of the members of the working party was why businesses don't recognize the value of qualification by giving pay rises when staff become Chartered. This is an attractive but unrealistic notion as the following story illustrates.

George is a typical young engineer who, like many graduates, focused his early ambitions on becoming Chartered. However, these ambitions were soon replaced by more long term career considerations.

George studied at Queen's University, Belfast and learned about Whitby Bird & Partners through the GTI Journal, a publication given free to all final year engineering students. Through this, he found out that we were working on projects in Germany and, as he was fluent in German, felt he had something particular to offer.

We flew him over for interview and offered him a job on the spot. He joined us in 1995 with a first class degree. He started work on our German projects and moved on to British projects, such as Technopolis in Norwich with Michael Hopkins and a business park with Norman Foster.

He quickly established himself as a key member of the team and his salary rose accordingly. Throughout the period he logged his experience and has now signed off his core objectives under our training scheme. However, he is only 25 and has yet to sit his Professional Review. He has spent time on sites in Germany and at home and there is no doubt he should sail through his Review.

But his ambitions have now gone beyond becoming Chartered. This is our problem, and the problem for many other businesses like ours. Having employed talented youngsters, we have to create the opportunities for them, paying good salaries regardless of whether or not they are Chartered. However, even with the growth our practice is experiencing this is not always possible.

Recently the back pages of this magazine advertised a job with a multi- disciplinary company looking for an engineer to participate in its expansion in Europe. The company already has a number of architectural offices there. It was the sort of ad that I knew a number of our staff could respond to and the sort of job I would have loved, had the opportunity been around when I was that age. George got it and a salary rise in excess of 30%. It is a great opportunity for him and while we will be sad to see him go, I am also very excited for him and take pride in the part we have played in his success.

Being Chartered was not a requirement of his new employers. Possibly when he is based overseas it might be a bit more difficult for George to take his Professional Review. With time and continued success, Membership will become progressively less relevant to him and he risks becoming one of the increasing number of unchartered professionals. As these ranks grow, the need for the Institution to grab the Georges early becomes more imperative. He is already a role model to others in our office. The status of qualification in our office would mean a lot more if it could have been construed that, having got his Civils, he got the great break.

One of the recommendations of the working party is to put a time limit from signing off core objectives to taking the Professional Review. A rather sneaky, but necessary, means of focusing George's attention.

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