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Q & A - Tom Foulkes

After much lobbying, Tom Foulkes has secured a seat for the ICE on the Engineering & Technology Board (ETB). So how does he see the ETB's future panning out, what should civil engineers expect to see and by when?

What do you see the as the main differences with the ETB under Sir Anthony?
The first thing to point out is that we now have a very proactive board. One of the reasons for that is we have a number of people from the institutions actually as members for the board which makes us able to discuss the connection between what the ETB is working on and what the institutions are working on. It's absolutely essential we dissolve that interface so that we are working effectively together.

What do you want the ETB to do?
The ETB has got to focus on its core purpose and that is promotion. It's about communication and messages. We have refined the purpose of the ETB. It is now focused on the role of engineers and engineering in society.

Specifically what is different?
We have taken out a whole lot of stuff about science and mathematics, all of which are good things but are secondary to engineering. We have clarified the primary purpose which is all about engineers and engineering, and we've clarified that the main raison d'être of the ETB is to promote the strong messages about engineering to society, media and political leaders, and to schools and the education system. Promotion is now right at the heart of what the ETB is there to do.

What does success look like?
First of all in organisational terms, ETB has to become such a good promoter of engineers and engineering that everyone in the engineering community – not just the institutions but industry and companies and government bodies – all want to use its services as their way of getting their messages out.

How will we measure that?
The big test of success for the ETB is actually getting positive messages out to the people who need to hear them. Some of that will actually be increasing the awareness of engineering by people in the political arena but not just about the ETB – that's not the message. The message is: what are the issues in engineering that political people need to be aware of? An example at the moment would be the importance of maths and science teaching in schools. The second, equally important test is getting high quality, joined up pan-engineering career support information material in schools.

How long do you give the current structure?
I'd say we've got about a year. The ETB board has got the programme focused in the right areas, but we have got to speed up delivery. There are some good programmes such as the Science & Engineering Week, the Science & Engineering fair and the campaign focused on technicians. All of these are the right things to be doing, but my personal frustration is that I want to see the delivery speeded up. By this time next year we need to see some of these significant things happen.

- Tom Foulkes is ICE director general

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