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The alternative route to chartership engineers should consider

27 April 2022

Stantec engineer Scott Nicholson chose the experiential learning route to reach his career goals. He provides insight into his unique journey to becoming chartered.

The alternative route to chartership engineers should consider
A bit of 'competition' sparked Scott Nicholson's journey to chartership, after starting as an apprentice at Stantec nearly 20 years ago. Image credit: Scott Nicholson

Choosing a career is a big decision. However, once you’ve made your choice, choosing how to become professionally qualified can be an even bigger one.

With a variety of routes and courses available to those who choose engineering, it can be a challenge to decide which is the right one for you.

After joining as an apprentice nearly 20 years ago, I recently became the first person in Stantec UK to achieve chartered engineer (CEng) status with the ICE via the experiential route.

The experiential learning route enables you to use the knowledge gained at work to bridge the gap between your achieved qualifications and those needed to fulfil the academic requirements for chartered membership with the ICE.

Following in the footsteps of my grandfather

My grandfather was an engineer; he was incredibly passionate and dedicated to his work and chose not to retire until he was 78.

He was a great role model.

I decided I wanted to become an engineer in secondary school and have focused on this ever since.

After deciding not to stay on at school for A-levels, I was confident I’d be able to find a suitable apprenticeship and gain a qualification directly related to my career path.

I was motivated by the ability to earn and attend college or university on day release.

Starting at Stantec

I joined Stantec in November 2005 as a trainee technician (apprentice) and progressed to an engineering role, and I’m now an associate engineer within our river engineering and navigation team in Reading.

I studied civil engineering part-time over several years and was fully supported and funded by Stantec.

I obtained my national certificate and higher national certificate from Thames Valley University and bachelor’s of engineering in civil engineering from Kingston University.

Discovering the experiential learning route

Once I completed my degree, I made use of a fast-track scheme within Stantec to become a chartered technician (EngTech) and then discovered the ICE Experiential Learning route.

It was a great opportunity to document my on-the-job learning and demonstrate that I met the requirements to become a chartered engineer.

I’m now in my 17th year within my team and I’ve been able to work on a variety of navigation projects.

These include designing multiple lock gates on the River Thames, delivering river restoration projects, as well as undertaking condition inspections.

My advice for making progress

A significant prompt was when I found out a good friend from another office was the first person internally to have their experiential application accepted.

Shamefully, this was the competition I needed for the race to chartership.

My biggest tip is to manage your workload and time to maintain a sensible work/life balance.

I personally set aside specific time slots in the week to focus on the various deliverables.

Using this structure, I was able acknowledge the progress I was making and maintain momentum.

In hindsight, I should have completed the work over a longer duration instead of short and intense.

This would be my second piece of advice, make the time commitment achievable without excessive compromise.

An alternative option for those seeking to achieve chartered engineer status

So how did I do it?

As I have a BEng (Hons) I needed to complete the Experiential Learning route and specifically “Managerial Submission” which required me to answer four questions.

This was focused on design processes, leadership / commercial, communication and CPD.

As this had to demonstrate my master's equivalent level of understanding, the most difficult element was keeping within the 500-word count for each question.

This application is submitted alongside an extended version of your CV to the ICE for consideration.

The ICE reviews these applications monthly, so I heard back relatively promptly and provided confirmation that I was now eligible to be considered for a Professional Review.

This magically revealed all of the attributes within the IPD tool up to CEng level which were previously blocked out.

This enabled me to collate and submit my evidence against the CEng level attributes and continue on a conventional professional review process.

Why I’d recommend the experiential learning path

I would 100% recommend the apprenticeship route to others.

I was motivated by the ability to earn and learn on day release, but while on the course it became clear that having unlimited access to engineering specialists was a great help and gave me additional support when completing my studies.

Graduating was a huge personal achievement but doing so without any student debt felt even better.

I feel that the experiential learning route is yet another option for engineers and almost extends the underlining morals of an apprenticeship by formally recognising on-the-job experience to demonstrate a master’s level of understanding.

Seal of approval

The chartership feels like a trusted seal of approval.

My achievements are testament to the support of my family, my team, and other colleagues within Stantec.

I will always be grateful for the encouragement and motivation they have given me.

I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m grateful to Stantec for supporting me on my journey.

The apprenticeship and experiential learning route has been the ideal career path for me.

The ICE experiential learning route: how it works

  1. After confirming you’re eligible, you submit an assessment form and supporting documentation to the experiential learning submission portal.
  2. Your submission will be reviewed by two members of the Experiential Learning Panel (ELP) who will make a recommendation to the rest of the ELP.
  3. The ELP will consider the assessors’ report and if approved you can then complete your Initial Professional Development and progress to making a Professional Review application.
  4. If you wish to apply for the Chartered Professional Review (CPR), you should apply for Experiential Learning at least three to four months before the CPR application closing date.
  5. If you became IEng MICE via the Technical Report Route, you’ll be able to make an Experiential Learning Submission.

  • Scott Nicholson, associate engineer at Stantec