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Engaging with employers

Malcolm Jackson.

The importance of a key ICE initiative, by Malcolm Jackson.

One of ICE’s stated business plan priorities for 2011-2016 is “employer engagement - promoting the value of membership to employers”. But what is meant by the term “engagement” in this context?

Council recently approved the formation of a working group, led by Adrian Coy - East Midlands regional council member, to make proposals for development of an employment engagement strategy. They defined employer engagement as “an ongoing relationship between ICE and an employer, which is not reliant on an individual member, for mutual benefit in achieving common or aligned goals and outcomes”.

What perhaps isn’t always fully appreciated is that ICE has successfully built its most commonly adopted approach to graduates’ initial professional development on an employer engagement model. ICE Company Approved Training Schemes are just that. While supported by individual members in their roles as mentors and Supervising Civil Engineers, the on-going commitment to the training scheme transcends the individual and is made by the employer.

Engagement catalyst

There are other excellent recent examples where the catalyst for increased ICE employer engagement has been from active and committed members. Over time many such initiatives develop and become an established part of an organisation’s strategic framework and culture.

Schools support is an example where some employers are so committed to the ICE Ambassador scheme that they embed the requirement that graduates support it into their Training Agreements.

Another example of formal engagement, which also brings in academia as the lead stakeholder, can be seen at the University of Derby. Here the Eng Tech TMICE professional qualification has been embedded into their foundation degree. This is a clear case where engaged ICE members in academia and industry, supported by staff, can develop a completely new approach which supports all three stakeholders’ goals.

Likewise support by key individuals, including the East Midlands chair Paul McCormick, for the professional development of technicians within Amey, is now rapidly progressing to a new structured approach for workplace professional qualification assessment. An exemplar that ICE hopes to extend to other employers.

Engaging with SMEs

ICE is acutely conscious that its employment engagement strategy must embrace SMEs as well as large employers and will only succeed if benefits accrue to both the ICE and employer. In a recent survey of employers, the recognition of civil engineering excellence through ICE Awards was rated top out of the 20 proposed benefits.
ICE Awards are nothing new, but perhaps the importance employers place on this recognition hasn’t been fully appreciated until now. The recent introduction of a branded ICE Awards logo, for use by successful recipients on their publications, is a small but important example of ICE offering something, in this case its brand, for the benefit of the employer.

CPD is another area where, through closer employer engagement, some of ICE’s regional events programme could potentially be more closely aligned with employers’ needs, whilst still offering individual members an appropriate opportunity for personal and professional development.

Does this mean ICE needs to give up its independence if it pursues an employer engagement strategy? Certainly not. This fundamental principle is something that can’t be compromised. The purpose of such a strategy is to improve the way ICE works in partnership with employers in order to achieve its objectives on behalf of its members and in the interests of society.

  • Malcolm Jackson is ICE Midlands regional director

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