Engineering news

Hunt is on for 3m missing members

Tanya Blake

In March 2016 the IMechE joined forces with the ICE and IET, which together represent 70% of the UK engineering community, to commission John Uff QC to lead a review of professional engineering.

This review, which has now been published, outlines how professional engineering institutions (PEIs), as well as the wider professional engineering sector, can perform better. The independent review was the result of consultation with a wide spectrum of stakeholders including academics, training organisations, PEIs, governments and employers large and small across many sectors.

The report highlights a number of ways in which PEIs and the wider professional engineering community can become more effective. Among the conclusions is that the current structure of the UK engineering profession has evolved piecemeal over many decades and that it no longer serves the best interests of members, employers or wider society. The large number of separate PEIs creates confusion, duplication and huge inefficiencies. 

One of the key ideas in the report is for the need to streamline the work in the professional engineering sector. Uff’s view is that only the major PEIs, such as the IMechE, ICE and IET, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, have the strength and influence to bring about change. He recommends that there should be much more collaboration between PEIs, and that PEIs, Engineering UK and the Engineering Council work together to identify and recruit potential registrants from the estimated 3 million people working in engineering with no association with PEIs.

In response the IMechE has agreed to collaborate with the IET and ICE on five joint work streams:

First, to support the royal academy to draw together engineering policy to provide a strong, coherent voice in areas of strategic importance, such as Brexit and the government’s industrial strategy. Recognising this, the three PEIs will also work collaboratively on areas of policy in which there is joint and collective interest.

Second, that the work of the engineering profession with schools should be streamlined. There are a number of organisations, such as Engineering UK, STEM Learning and the Royal Academy of Engineering, whose activities overlap. The PEIs aim to work jointly with these organisations towards a process of consolidation and cooperation.

Third, to assess the feasibility of a joint PEI digital knowledge portal. If successful, this will facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration across disciplines. 

Fourth, to review jointly the efficiency of PEI accreditation and approval activities for academia and industry. 

Fifth, to set up and resource a joint programme to engage and support the missing 3 million members of the engineering industry who are not professionally registered.

The chief executives of all the PEIs are due to meet on 5 May to establish how to take this initiative forward.


IMechE chief executive Stephen Tetlow has called for all professional engineering institutions to take action, following the findings of the Uff review. 

“I don’t want to see the Uff review end up like many other reports gathering dust on a shelf,” he said. “I would like to see a real concerted effort from the institutions.” 

Tetlow (pictured) said he is hopeful that the professional engineering institutions (PEIs) attending the 5 May event to discuss the actions from the review, including the IMarEST, the Institute of Materials and the Welding Institute, will agree to a more joined-up approach. However, he said that a lot of the PEIs do not recognise there is a problem, let alone that they should do something to fix it. “I am nervous whether they will actually get off their backsides and do something about it,” he said. 

Tetlow believes that if PEIs do not work together they will be at risk of becoming “irrelevant” and will lose out on the 3 million engineers who feel professional registration is not for them. He added that it was very important that PEIs work together to reflect the fast-changing nature of engineering and science in the digital information age.

According to Tetlow, this should begin with the creation of joint membership offers, as well as providing more effective joint policies and a more joined-up approach to providing information and enrichment activities to schools. “I am very keen to hear what our membership has to say on this,” he said.

He added that the IMechE is investing heavily in new digital services and professionalising the way it runs. “In what is a very fast-moving sector we want people to see us as a professional deliverer of services rather than what might be perceived as an old boys’ club,” said Tetlow. 

“I really hope that we can do that together rather than as a single institution.”


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