Becoming a manager is an important rung on the career ladder for most civil engineers - even though it may be a responsibility you take on without formal training or management education. While the typical high flyer will study full time for a prestigious MBA before taking on a leadership role, many of us find we are making decisions about how to organise others with little more to go on than our gut feelings.
But if you want to raise your game, and start working more strategically, it can be difficult to find the right course - one which is flexible and draws on the valuable experience you have already gained in the workplace.
With this in mind, a consortium of leading UK universities and professional institutions, including the ICE, is launching a brand new scheme geared towards experienced managers who want the qualifications to back up their practical knowledge. Headed by the University of Bristol, the Engineering Management Partnership (EMP) was set up in 1990 and was originally known as the Joint Board for Engineering Management. Since then the programme has expanded, and there are 155 ICE members registered on the scheme, 50 of whom are studying for their Masters. Altogether, around 1000 students are studying with EMP, supported by some 600 companies.
Every course is run on a flexible, part time basis. However, until now, programmes have been aimed primarily at engineers who are at an early stage in their career. The new course - to be held at Bristol University - is the first specifically designed to cater for engineering gradates who have already held a management post and have considerable experience. The course consists of ten modules, each covered by an optional residential course of two to five days. Students who want to approach this as a distance learning course can submit work without attending the residential weekends.
Issues covered include globalisation, managing change, technical innovation, competitiveness and entrepreneurship.
Currently, there are only 12 places available on the Bristol course, but the EMP is keen to see how many applicants come forward for this. 'If, for instance, we get applications from 12 engineers in Scotland, we could run a course there, ' says Linda Franklin, who handles candidate and employer liaison for the EMP. 'That is the beauty of the flexible way we work.' The aim is to restrict the course to groups of 12 so each student can have plenty of advice and guidance - one of the features of the existing EMP programme is a national network of tutors and email tutor support.
The course does not come cheap - programme fees for the two stages of five modules total £5,500. Engineers who complete the course will have a certificate in Engineering Management - the first stage on its programme.
Graduates of that course may choose to take a diploma, an MSc, an MBA, or from this year, a doctorate. Time spent on future courses is partly dependent on the commitment which individual students can make, but a part-time doctorate is likely to take at least five years.
Franklin stresses that course tutors will be keen to get students to draw on their practical experience as much as possible.
'In written assignments, for instance, they will be asked specific questions for which they can draw on their knowledge of projects they have worked on, ' she says.
All engineering graduates are welcome to apply and they need to be able to show evidence of direct management experience in some field of engineering. 'It is all part of life long learning and many people do have the experience, but not the management qualifications to go with that, ' Franklin points out.
Other organisations backing the consortium include the Institution of Chemical Engineers, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers. Participating universities include Loughborough and Bradford, with Edinburgh and Leeds likely to join in the next six months.
For more information, call Linda Franklin on (01284) 718615, email her on info@emp. ac. uk or visit the EMP website www. emp. ac. uk
Many people become managers without formal training or qualifications EMP exists to augment practical knowledge with recognised qualifications Though expensive, courses are specifically designed for those with experience and consist of small groups with flexible attendance options