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Viewpoint: No mere technicality

The ICE set up a lifed panel in May 2010 to address the lack of technicians within our membership, and promote the vital role they play within industry, providing invaluable technical and practical support to civil engineering teams.

Growth is needed

Currently technicians make up approximately one percent of our professionally qualified membership. While this represents an increase of over ten percent from where we were five years ago, we want, and need, to improve this figure significantly. In fact the panel has set a target of achieving 2,015 technician members by 2015.

One year in and we’re making progress, but there’s a lot more work to do. Crucially we need to make sure young technician engineers and students are aware of the technician route to ICE membership, and that employers are supporting our goals through development and training programmes.

Over previous years a shortage of technician engineers has lead to a shortage of engineers as graduates have back-filled these roles. There is an enormous programme of work to be done by civil engineers in the coming years, with investment on the scale of £200bn estimated to be needed in just the next five years.

These challenges will require a highly skilled workforce, with demand for specialist and generalist skills set to increase.

“These challenges will require a highly skilled workforce, with demand for specialist and generalist skills set to increase”

And so the ICE has introduced several initiatives to engage technicians. Our Embedded Technician Development Scheme is an integration of academic qualification and professional development which allows students, invariably with previous work experience, to gain professional qualification as they complete their academic course, or very soon thereafter.

The very first Technician Reviews in the workplace have just been successfully carried out in conjunction with Amey and we are working to develop similar schemes with other companies, in recognition of the hands on work that is integral to the technician profession.

Finally, with a consortium of London companies, we have introduced a technician apprenticeship scheme, with eight students currently enrolled.

Employers must support us

This is just the beginning and the ICE will continue to work hard to promote the case for technicians and provide the means for them to become qualified. However none of this is possible without the support of employers. Employers need to do the groundwork, looking at the way teams are structured and identifying and addressing skills shortage.

Investing in training and development that encompasses apprenticeships and vocational programmes is essential, as is giving more recognition to the significance of the roles performed by technicians.

Our experience so far tells us that industry is very open and supportive, and is now starting to recognize the value of technicians.

Now it is up to us to work in partnership to maintain the momentum, ensuring we are effectively engaging potential technician members and ultimately, securing today the skills we need for tomorrow.

  • Jean Venables is chair of the ICE Technicians lifed panel

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