Institution news

'Inside Track' - latest update from our President

Terry Spall, President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Inside Track provides updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities
Inside Track provides updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities

Welcome to the latest edition of "Inside Track", providing regular updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities.

Welcome to this edition of Inside Track. I hope you are finding this to be a useful communication. It is targeted at those who are more active and engaged with the Institution, but I hope that it also provides a good level of insight into the inner workings of the Trustee Board for everyone - even if you are not currently closely involved, and that you do find it of interest.

Currently, we have an open position for a Member to participate in Trustee Board meetings (with “observer” status). If you would like to become a Trustee Board member and have experience in ‘values and behaviours’, then please take a look at the information on our website for further details.

This month I am reporting on the February Trustee Board meeting. The following captures some of the key discussion items and decisions we took, together with other news which I felt you should know about.

Inclusion Moment – mental health awareness

In the depths of lockdown #3 in the UK and with similar restrictions in place in many other countries, we are all feeling the strain a little and our mental well-being is being tested to new limits. During our February Trustee Board, our inclusion moment was provided by our Derby and Notts Young Members who have been running a series of webinars aimed at raising awareness of mental health. It is a subject that is often overlooked but, at this moment, there has never been a better time to pause and consider how these issues can creep up on even the toughest of us. I would urge you all to take a closer look at the brilliant work our Derby and Notts Young Members have been doing, on YouTube.

2020 year-end and outlook for 2021

Our Finance and Commercial Director, Sean Fox reported on the predicted figures for end of 2020. Despite considerable pessimism in the very depths of COVID that we could be facing an annual loss up to £1M, we have seen a radical turn around driven by effective cost saving measures and better than expected performance from our commercial subsidiaries. Consequently, we are now provisionally looking at a slight surplus overall for 2020.

The results are still being finalised so we should await the final figures, but pessimism has morphed into cautious optimism and my thanks to all involved, throughout the charity and our trading subsidiaries, for achieving such an outstanding turnaround. 2021 was not anticipated to start with another lockdown when budgets were set, so we do have further choppy waters to navigate but revenues are tracking close to budget at the moment, with the exception of venue hire which has obviously taken a further hit with the building having to remain closed.

2021 AGM

Although the situation with COVID is easing as the lockdown and vaccination campaign benefits are beginning to emerge, we have taken a cautious view and taken the decision to plan for a fully virtual AGM on the 26 May. Unlike our AGM last year (delayed from May to September because of COVID) we will be using a virtual platform that will allow full online participation and voting.

Royal Charter and By-law changes

I am sure you will all be aware from the many previous communications that we have been making good progress with implementing the changes proposed by the Governance Review. To enact some of these changes it is necessary for us to make changes to our Charter and By-laws. This is not something we do very often and is quite a complex and expensive process, requiring us to seek legal advice and approval from our regulators and the UK Privy Council.

We will also take the opportunity to implement other changes, that have been pending awaiting the next update, to tidy up out of date clauses and include changes to allow virtual meetings and voting to be used in the future. Any changes to these documents requires approval by the membership and you will be hearing more about the changes that are necessary in the coming weeks with an intention to have a ballot in April alongside the normal Annual Election ballot.

2021 Election process and future elections

At the February Trustee Board, we were presented with the findings of a survey conducted by our Council into the low levels of voting in the 2020 Election. My thanks to Bowman Bradley for leading on this project. The turnout was 7.8%, which whilst comparable with other PEI’s, was lower than we would normally expect based on previous years (typically 14%).

The reasons for this have been thoroughly investigated; one of the primary reasons was identified as a late switch in how the voting packs were sent out with a greater reliance on electronic means. It was felt this could have been communicated better. The feedback obtained from those who didn’t vote also suggested many felt they didn’t know enough about the candidates to make an informed voting decision. As a consequence, the Board have agreed to issue all voting packs by post for this year’s Election and make it clear in the packs that we will be moving to full online voting from 2022. Those who wish to vote online this year will also be able to do so. Better candidate information will also be provided along with better use of comms to promote the Election and the candidates.

Strategy development

The new Strategy Committee has now been established – congratulations to the six successful applicants for the strategy positions. They will join the Chair and Finance & Commercial Director to make a committee of eight. The Committee, chaired by President-Elect Peter Flinn, is now meeting bi-weekly and has started by engaging different groups across the Institution and beyond to gather opinion and data to help with the formulation of strategy. As well as focusing on the long-term strategic planning they will also be making an input into the 2022 Business Plan.

COVID Task Force (CTF)

The COVID Task Force, under the Chairmanship of Professor Joe McGeough, Past President of the Institution, and the leadership of Frank Mills, Chair of the Construction and Building Services Division, has now completed its planned activities. A key output from the Task Force work has been the publication of the COVID-19 Manual for Engineers, available on the website.

An open online workshop on Airborne transmission was also held. The global presence of the Institution has been leveraged by the CTF with involvement from members around the world, providing insight into the situations in various countries and the ways in which engineering solutions have been used to help control the pandemic. It has formed links to other professional organisations and has close links to members of SAGE, the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. The CTF has contributed to discussions with government and scientific bodies aimed at controlling the COVID risks by implementing engineered infection controls.

With the vaccination programme rolling out and the impact of lockdown now being seen in a reducing ‘R number’ in the UK, the Institution’s contribution to the national effort is changing. The Board heard a paper from Council Member, Mark Jackson on how we can best continue to contribute. Mark will form a new COVID team with a new remit focused on sharing best practice recognising the advancing stage of the national COVID recovery.

CEO recruitment

Good progress is being made with the recruitment process, which is now at long list stage. We have some really promising candidates and so a good level of confidence at this stage that the campaign will be successful. We are anticipating being at a shortlist stage by the end of February and would hope to be able to select our preferred candidate following interviews and assessments in March/April. /p>

Member Communications

In the Governance Review, the need to communicate better was identified from the feedback provide in the supporting survey. The 'Inside Track' newsletter, that you are reading now, is one of several initiatives created to help with better communications.

However, we have some real challenges in getting the messages out to our members. At our February Trustee Board, we heard from Chantal Morgan, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, who outlined the challenges we face. One of the key ones was having up-to-date email address information and the right email preferences set by members for their accounts to actually receive such communications.

Social media channels continue to be strong but we are mindful that many members are not active on social media and, that being the case, please do make sure we have your correct email details and preferences.

Audit and Risk

We have now appointed new auditors BDO,  for the Institution; they are working closely with our Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) chaired by Vice President Heather Clarke. As a consequence of the Governance Review, the audit task has broadened and consequently Heather will be expanding the ARC over the coming months – if you feel you can help, keep an eye open for the new roles being advertised.

Implementation Group

The work of Dr Kerry Mashford’s Implementation Group, established in 2019 to implement governance changes, is now really focusing all efforts on completing the final stages of the task by the end of May.

As I mentioned above, a key aspect of this is going to be getting the Royal Charter and By-Law changes agreed with members. Alongside that, our biggest challenges are resolving the final hurdles to get the Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations live, completing the governance updates to our many boards and committees, improvements to communications and finally advancing the work being done on culture, values and behaviours.

So, lots still be done to get us over the line but we are on the home straight thanks to the efforts of Kerry and a very large number of members and staff supporting her. A Governance Manual will be created as the process concludes so we can be sure the learning is not lost as people move on in the future. We will also be setting up a special audit team to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the governance changes on an ongoing basis. As a consequence of all of the work done of the last two years, I have every confidence that the IMechE will emerge as an exemplar of good governance in the world of Professional Engineering Institutions.

HQ Refurbishment update

In the last Issue of 'Inside Track', I provided a briefing on the work being done by our Real Estate Strategy Group (RESG) to address the challenges our HQ building has. That work is progressing at pace and in the next edition of Professional Engineering you will see an article from me that provides a further update and beckons member feedback.

We have also created a special webpage to provide more details of the issues we are tackling with images and layouts of the building and details of the solution that is emerging as the most viable at this stage. We are planning to ballot the membership this summer but ahead of that, would really like to seek your views – please take a look and join the debate.

Lastly, I encourage you to share this news article with other members who may be interested in receiving these updates.

Feedback

Well, I hope you found the content of this issue of 'Inside Track' to be informative. Your feedback is always welcomed; you can reach me at president@imeche.org, or if you have some feedback on this issue of 'Inside Track' please contact insidetrack@imeche.org.

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