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Register for geotechnical engineers moves closer

Significant progress has been made on a proposed register for UK ground engineering professionals, says Ground Forum chairman Keith Gabriel.

Significant progress has been made on a proposed register for UK ground engineering professionals since Roger Thompson wrote on the subject just over a year ago.

The Geological Society (GSL) and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IoM3) have followed the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in approving a draft scheme for a new register.

A steering group was established to consider the operational and financial aspects of the register. The group met in April 2007 and January this year. It focused on five main issues:

- Whether all applicants
should be interviewed
- The wording of the
sponsor's statement
- Equivalence of Chartered
Engineer (CEng) and Chartered
Geologist (CGeol) qualifications
- Charges that would need to be made
for the scheme to be self-financing
- Alignment of the register
and the definitions in the
Site Investigation in Construction
documents (Site Investigation
Steering Group, SISG, 1993).

The cost of separate interviews for applicants was considered likely to make the scheme unattractive to applicants, and video conferencing was rejected on the grounds that the technology is not yet widely available. To ensure competence of registrants, a more robust sponsor's statement was drafted by The Ground Forum and agreed by correspondence.

In January the equivalence of CEng and CGeol was agreed, aided by a summary by Thompson and the care taken by the Privy Council to ensure equivalence when it authorised the establishment of the CGeol qualification.

The steering group also agreed to create a single, universal qualifications framework for ground engineers by aligning the definitions of ground engineering professionals in both the register and the new SISG documents.

That imperative, together with the desire to minimise application/assessment costs, led to the proposal of a three-tier register with initial entry on gaining chartered status for those with appropriate ground engineering experience. The three tiers proposed are:

- Registered ground
engineering professional
- Registered ground
engineering specialist
- Registered ground
engineering adviser.

When assessing applicants for chartered status, all three professional institutions (GSL, ICE and IoM3) already select at least one assessor with extensive experience in the same discipline(s) as the applicant.

The proposed structure has the benefit that no separate assessment will be required for entry on to the register; applicants for chartered status who have appropriate ground engineering experience will simply tick an extra box to indicate that they also want to be assessed for entry on to the register.

Inevitably a separate assessment will still be required initially for applicants who have already achieved CEng or CGeol status.

Elevation to the ground engineering specialist/adviser tiers will in future be based on competence rather than solely on the time elapsed since achieving chartered status. Guidance on the number of years' experience required will still be provided, although this is being switched to total ground engineering experience rather than post-chartered experience.

Thompson is drafting a revised set of scheme rules and application documents. Once finalised, endorsement of the scheme will be sought from major construction clients.

With a proverbial "following wind" the registration scheme could be launched this autumn, with initial applications being processed by late 2008 or early 2009.

We need a register to help clients appreciate the value of ground engineering and assist them with identifying competent professionals. The Ground Forum is helping to ensure that the scheme is fit for purpose. I hope the industry will support it.

Keith Gabriel is managing director of Gabriel GeoConsulting and chairman of The Ground Forum.

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