The pathway to chartership

Materials World magazine
,
2 Nov 2016

Are you thinking of becoming professionally registered? Ian Bowbrick and Deborah Seddon identify the steps to help you on your way to achieving Chartered Engineer status. 

Ian Bowbrick

Members cannot have failed to notice the emphasis being placed upon continuing professional development (CPD) in recent years by nearly all professions. Many have moved to a process of mandatory sampling and assessment of CPD records. This process has now caught up with the engineering profession. From 1 January 2017, IOM3 will be required by the Engineering Council to sample, review and provide appropriate feedback on the CPD records of its Chartered and Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians.

This development is viewed by many as long overdue and puts engineers on a par with doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists and environmentalists, who have had a regulatory CPD framework in place for a number of years. The Institute has always encouraged its members to undertake CPD – it is included in the byelaws. The maintenance and updating of knowledge, skills and competence gives both employers and the public confidence that an individual is able to execute their responsibilities effectively and within legislative and regulatory frameworks. It is also a central tenet of being classed as a professional. 

The reality is that many, if not all, members undertake CPD, but not all record it or reflect upon the outcomes, which they will now have to do. While the new regulations allow for both planned and unplanned CPD, IOM3 is looking to encourage members to plan their CPD to make the most of the development opportunities available. 

To support its members, the Institute has made a significant investment in purchasing and thoroughly testing the mycareerpath CPD recording instrument. The system is aligned with the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) for EngTech, IEng and CEng and also aligned with other titles, such as CEnv and CSci. It can be accessed via mobile and tablet, so records can be viewed or added to on-the-go. Progress can be measured and tracked against the competence statements for the chosen registration category. It will not be a requirement to use mycareerpath if you already use another system, particularly that of an employer. Where this is the case, members may submit copies of their record from these systems, if they are requested.

How will the selection of reviewed registrants be made and what process of review will be used?

The same procedure currently in place for the selection and review of Science Council and Society for the Environment registrant records will be used. Selection will be random, with no repeat call for at least five years. Those who act as licensed activity volunteers, such as membership, accreditation and CPD record assessors will be subject to more regular review. A peer review process will be applied and undertaken by panels of trained volunteers.

What metrics will be used to assess CPD records?

Assessors will be looking for a combination of work-based learning, professional activity, formal education, self-directed learning, conferences, seminars, workshops, meetings and other activities. Members are not expected to cover every heading but are encouraged not to just rely on one type of activity. In addition, CPD is occupationally specific and activities should therefore reflect development in both current and future roles that the member aspires to. This will suit members who have moved away from a hands-on engineering role and still wish to remain a registrant. Records will be classified as being satisfactory or come with suggested improvements.

What feedback can I expect?

All those submitting records will be certified and given appropriate feedback. One-to-one telephone feedback sessions will available upon request.

Do I risk being de-registered if my record is not judged to be satisfactory?

The CPD record assessment exercise will be used as a tool to assist and support the development of members rather than to penalise them.

Will the new CPD regulations apply to members who are retired?

No. The only exception will be licensed activity volunteers.

Will the new CPD regulations apply to members who hold their registration with another institution?

No. The only exception will be licensed activity volunteers.

Deborah Seddon

What is a Chartered Engineer? 

A Chartered Engineer is able to use their innovation to develop solutions to engineering problems using new or existing technologies. They should be able to demonstrate that they have been accountable for project, finance and personnel management, as well as managing trade-offs between technical and socio-economic factors. People skills and communicating technical matters are also vital, among other skills. 

The standards for the engineering profession are set, maintained and published by the Engineering Council, the UK regulatory body for the engineering profession. UK-SPEC sets out the standards that an individual must demonstrate to become registered at the Engineering Council as a professionally qualified engineer or technician. 

There are five headline standards of competence. Those referred to as the A and B standards of competence focus on technical engineering, including general and specialist knowledge and applying theoretical and practical methods. The C and D standards are concerned with technical and commercial leadership, management, responsibility, effective interpersonal skills and communication skills. 

The E standard is about demonstrating your personal commitment to professional standards,
the ethical and environmental obligations involved in being a professional engineer, as well as your commitment to CPD. The A-E headline standards of competence are further described in UK-SPEC with exemplar activities, though these are not exhaustive. IOM3 will also be able to advise you about activities specific to your sector that should enable you to demonstrate the requirements.

Capability and dedication

The standards in UK-SPEC are reviewed every five years. The most recent review in 2013/2014 found that there was strong support among stakeholders for the standards with only a few suggested areas for revision, to strengthen areas such as intellectual property, security and risk. You can be confident that in working towards CEng, you are working to standards that have a high level of currency and credibility.  

The new edition of UK-SPEC includes definitions of competence and commitment, and this helps to explain the building blocks on the way to registration. Achieving competence requires the right level of knowledge, understanding and skill, as well as a professional attitude. Many will have followed a structured education programme such as a degree, followed by on-the-job training and experience, generally known as initial professional development. However, compared with some other professions, engineering is more open and accessible and is not prescriptive about how you achieve competence. For CEng status, while there is a route to registration for those holding a degree accredited by the Engineering Council, sometimes known as the 'standard route', you can become registered if you can demonstrate the required competence in other ways, via the ‘individually assessed’ route. 

What route should I take? 

Holding an accredited MEng degree provides the full educational requirement for CEng status. You can check the status of your degree using the public searchable database, by intake year. A list of accredited degrees can be found on the Engineering Council website. You can also work towards CEng registration if you hold an accredited BEng with honours by undertaking what is termed ‘further learning’ to master’s level. This could be an accredited MSc or other master’s degree or an engineering doctorate. Another option is a work-based learning or experiential learning scheme. 

An example is the flexible, work-based degree framework called Engineering Gateways, developed by the Engineering Council and offered by some universities under the title ‘Professional Engineering.’ These integrate learning with the development of professional competence. 

Don’t worry if you don’t hold an accredited degree. If you can demonstrate the same level of required knowledge and understanding in other ways, you can achieve registered status. The best advice is to speak to an IOM3 membership advisor for examples of how others have successfully completed the ‘individually assessed’ route. 

The other part of competence, the skills and professional attitude side of things, is developed in the workplace, perhaps during a structured workplace training scheme. Again, don’t worry if your employer does not offer this. The important thing is to plan and record your development of competence along the way and map it to the requirements in UK-SPEC.        

IOM3 review process

IOM3 is one of the 35 professional engineering institutions licensed by the Engineering Council to assess whether an individual member should be admitted to the register. This means the Engineering Council has confidence in IOM3 to interpret the UK-SPEC standards for your sector and for the Institute to assess CEng applicants.  

As part of your professional review, you will be required to submit documentary evidence to show how you meet the UK-SPEC standards as interpreted by IOM3. 

For anyone seeking CEng registration, there will also be an interview conducted by two trained and qualified peer assessors. They will determine whether a candidate meets all the requirements and make a recommendation to the relevant IOM3 committee about whether they can be awarded the CEng title, or not.  

It is important to take the time to reflect on how you have met the required competence and commitment in your working life and only to apply for registration once you are ready. 

Commitment is key

Registered engineers and technicians make a commitment to the profession, to society and to the environment. 

Once admitted to the Engineering Council Register, the journey does not stop there. Registrants will continue to develop their knowledge, expertise and personal qualities through CPD. It includes proactively taking ownership of your learning and development, recording CPD activities, reflecting on what you have learnt, reviewing your learning and development and supporting others through mentoring. 

As well as boosting self-esteem, professional registration improves career prospects and demonstrates to colleagues, employers and clients that you have been recognised by your peers for your expertise, professionalism and integrity.

Ian Bowbrick is the Director of Professional Development and Membership at IOM3. For further information on registration or any other questions, email ian.bowbrick@iom3.org 

Deborah Seddon as head of Policy and Standards at the Engineering Council facilitated the 2013/2014 review of standards-related documents, including UK-SPEC and degree accreditation criteria. She now works part time as Policy and Standards Adviser.

Prospective candidates can download copies of UK-SPEC, find accredited courses, guidance and other resources about professional registration on the Engineering Council’s website, visit www.engc.org.uk. For specific information about the registration process, applicants should contact IOM3 at www.iom3.org/continuing-professional-development