Over the past month or so I have been very interested to see a particular debate unfold on LinkedIn regarding IMechE CEO, Stephen Tetlow’s call for input into a manifesto for the next government, and have been both disappointed and greatly encouraged by the comments on this subject. Firstly I speak here as an individual and as a Chartered Engineer for over 30 years, not in any official capacity as newly elected Vice President and member of the Trustee Board. I have returned to the volunteer section of the Institution after a number of years due to business and family commitments, but I have found upon my return, a very different Institution to that of 20 years ago; some of the perceptions expressed in this discussion are certainly out of date. I have found an Institution now that has a very clear vision as to where it wants to go and its role within society and the profession itself.

You don’t have to look hard in the Institution’s communications to see the forward looking strategic objectives that have been set in areas of Engagement, Outreach to Government, Education, Industry and Members and the considerable efforts that are being done linked to STEM initiatives to help and encourage our best talent into engineering. The Volunteer Networks in all the regions are also doing tremendous work in support of the strategic objectives of the Institution.

Nick Schultkins, who has been active in the debate on LinkedIn, has done some great work in the Wessex Region to reach out and send the ‘message’ to a wider influential audience. The foundation of the Institution, including the often criticised Trustee Board, is dependent wholly on a huge body of volunteers committed to give up their time to further their profession; my advice to anyone who doesn’t agree with where the Institution is going, would be to get involved in its many activities and influence policy.

If we, as a profession, constantly moan about our status and pay, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy; the view we have of ourselves needs to change. The reality of the situation is that engineering is rapidly becoming a profession that young people are aspiring to; it is seen as a profession that provides a worthwhile and valuable contribution to society. What were once seen as ‘noble’ professions like banking, accounting and legal are now being seen as tainted professions. The myth that we are losing engineers to the ‘City’ is out of date; this fact is evidenced by the increasing demand for engineering places at our top universities and the increasing demand on entry requirements, which means that we now have the best talent in the UK coming into the profession. However, a lot more needs to done. We have a huge shortage of engineers at all levels developing over the next 5 years, and if we don’t work with Government and Academia on this problem, Britain will miss out on the economic opportunities that lie ahead.

I believe when we speak, we should speak about engineering in a holistic way, not just about a small group ‘Chartered Mechanical Engineers’; registration is a side issue and only relevant to small number of us. The nation needs engineers from all disciplines and at all levels, if we speak only as an elite few, we will miss out on the opportunity to influence those in power; we need to earn respect in society, not demand it or ask for laws to achieve it; we should inspire, lead by example and show how every aspect of society is touched by engineering. So let’s get behind Stephen Tetlow in his initiative to get a manifesto on engineering to the prospective government, whoever that will be.

I would be interested to hear your comments on this or any aspect of engineering in order to take them back to the IMechE, please leave a comment!

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