A focused, determined and well-resourced campaign to raise the status of Associate Members has been the missing link in the ICE's New Routes to Membership initiative (see News).
But let the Institution have no illusions - it is a tall order. After more than a century of promoting Chartered status as the qualification to which all should aspire, a change of emphasis will be difficult to achieve. What the ICE will in effect be arguing is that AMICE is not necessarily a lesser grade, just a different one. It will support this, one assumes, with examples of the responsible work that many AMICEs carry out, as well as by highlighting those Associate Members who have highly succesful careers.
Crucially, ICE needs to succeed in its desire to get senior members (of all grades) to put their weight behind this campaign. It is relatively common to hear senior figures in the profession privately express opinions along the lines of 'who would want to be classified as second class?'. These sort of comments get around and colour the view of those entering the profession.
However, even with this backing it will be extremely difficult to achieve a step change in the profile of the Associate grade. No doubt there are other professions where two grades of membership share more or less the same status - but they do not spring readily to mind.
And then there is the decision by other engineering institutions to offer Corporate membership to non-Chartered grades. This will increase the feeling among non Chartered ICE members that they are, indeed, viewed as 'second class'.
Faced with decades of prejudice, a limited campaign budget and the activities of other institutions, the ICE may well have to re-examine the possibility of extending Corporate status, as the Cawthra Commission recommended. The promotion campaign must be given a chance to succeed, but the Institution should be careful about painting itself into any corners with definite statements on Corporate membership at this early stage.