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Engineering is a profession, not a vocation

by Mel Starrs on April 6, 2010

in The Profession

The BBC managed to ire me on Sunday with this news item on vocational training at 14. I was in the car and the news (on Radio 2) kept insisting on calling engineering a ‘vocation’. No wonder engineering has an image problem. They could have chosen to talk about actual vocations, such as hairdressing, car mechanics or cookery. But no, they insisted on referring to engineering.

I do think it would be a mistake to concentrate on vocational ‘streaming’ at 14 – but why couldn’t the technical colleges be for very high standards of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), rather than vocational? That’s what I think we need desperately.

Engineering is a profession in the UK (despite what the BBC might think). To be chartered with the Engineering Council a minimum qualification of MEng is now required.There is of course more than one route to chartership, but those have ‘come off the tools’ in a more vocational route need to pass onerous interviews and essay writing. Despite this, engineering still suffers with misperceptions such as those the newsreader was promoting.

Back in June 2009 I linked to the Engineering Council’s Sustainability Guide. It is worth reiterating the principles professional engineers are supposed to undertake with regards to sustainability:

  1. Contribute to building a sustainable society, present and future
  2. Apply professional and responsible judgement and take a leadership role
  3. Do more than just comply with legislation and codes
  4. Use resources efficiently and effectively
  5. Seek multiple views to solve sustainability challenges
  6. Manage risk to minimise adverse impact to people or the environment

If you are interested in voicing opinions on this and broader issues on science, I am pleased to see that science is raising it’s head in the upcoming election campaigning. Let’s all try to improve the image of engineering in the UK…

  • http://www.performancebuilding.co.uk Ken Gray

    I would have been equally ‘ired’, I have in the past complained to BBC about how they present engineers and I always got a patronising reply about how my comments have been noted.

    I still have a letter from the editor of the Times in response to my complaint about a headline in the 80’s about engineers at a car production plant going on strike. He advised me that the general public don’t understand the difference between engineers and engineering workers, so to avoid confusion they will continue to use ‘engineer’ to cover such stories. So 25 years on, no change.

    How do we fix this???

  • http://www.performancebuilding.co.uk Ken Gray

    I would have been equally ‘ired’, I have in the past complained to BBC about how they present engineers and I always got a patronising reply about how my comments have been noted.

    I still have a letter from the editor of the Times in response to my complaint about a headline in the 80’s about engineers at a car production plant going on strike. He advised me that the general public don’t understand the difference between engineers and engineering workers, so to avoid confusion they will continue to use ‘engineer’ to cover such stories. So 25 years on, no change.

    How do we fix this???