ICE Council member, Jose Lores, speaks to Spanish engineers about how being chartered with the ICE helped their careers abroad.
Though it may lead to more opportunities, moving to another country isn’t easy. There are countless factors to consider, one very important one being, how will I make a living?
Is the civil engineering career I’ve had in my country transferable? What can I do to prove that I have the knowledge, skills and experience to practice here too?
I've helped several colleagues from Spain, including many members of the Colegio de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos and of the Colegio de Ingenieros Técnicos de Obras Públicas e Ingenieros Civiles, move to the UK and achieve great engineering careers.
Last year, I was honoured to receive an award for this work through 2013 to 2019, when I was the point of contact for Spaniards seeking to make the move to the UK.
So, I can confidently say that there is a way. And it’s through ICE chartership.
But you don’t have to take just my word for it.
To learn how the ICE helped out in their career journeys, we spoke to Nerea Palacios, senior maritime engineer at NIRAS UK, Conchita Munar, associate director at Waterman Aspen, and Luis Rico Bensusan, associate director at Turner & Townsend and UK representative of the Colegio.
How did you first hear about the ICE?
Nerea Palacios: I first heard about the ICE while at university in the UK, where I completed my master’s degree. I joined the ICE as a student member and started getting familiar with the organisation and all the services offered.
Conchita Munar: I first heard about the ICE while I was studying in Madrid. My university hosted an event with Spanish members who talked about their experience working both in Spain and in the UK.
Luis Rico Bensusan: After completing my civil engineering studies and compulsory social service in Spain, I came to work in the UK. My colleagues were the first to tell me about the ICE.
What inspired you to get qualified with the ICE?
NP: In this profession, becoming professionally qualified is essential in terms of career progression so that was my main drive.
Plus, the ICE is well-recognised worldwide, so it’s an excellent engineering passport to work all around the globe.
CM: For me, it was less about prestige and more about community, about helping each other and giving back.
LB: Some of my colleagues at work were chartered members of the ICE, and they encouraged me to become a member too.
What are the benefits of being qualified with the ICE?
NP: It’s helped me boost my career. It's not only career progression, but also all the opportunities that the ICE offers such as industry events, training courses, awards, committees, volunteering, mentoring, etc.
I feel I’m contributing to the profession, inspiring the next generation of civil engineers and giving something back, which I find very rewarding.
CM: For me, becoming qualified with the ICE meant taking control of my career, opening roles where I had more responsibility, that were technically challenging and financially rewarding.
Most employers understand that a Chartered Engineer has shown the required skills and knowledge to be a senior engineer, and often have this as a soft requirement to grant promotions.
LB: On top of the professional recognition in the UK, it has been a valuable qualification while working abroad in countries like Turkey, Kosovo and Algeria.
When meeting professionals from other countries, being a Chartered Engineer was very helpful.
You don’t have to justify where you studied or the work you did, you’re immediately recognised as a professional civil engineer.
Has the ICE opened any doors for you?
NP: Yes, being part of the ICE has helped me connect with other ICE members working in Spain and get involved in activities organised by ICE Spain.
CM: The main door it has opened is the one to the largest community of professionals working in civil engineering. I’ve met experts in all areas, who’ve worked around the world and participated in the most inspiring projects.
I also met a group of people who began their careers at the same time as I did, we learned together and helped each other along the way, forming strong friendships.
Lastly, I now have the chance to mentor and support younger people trying to understand the options available to them in this vast industry.
LB: Definitely. In Spain I’ve met great professionals with whom I’m still in touch, all strongly committed with the profession both in the UK and Spain.
After years working in Spain, I came back to London six years ago. Being a chartered member of the ICE was a key factor in my employability.
What were the greatest obstacles to obtaining ICE qualifications and how did you overcome them?
NP: Coming from a Spanish university, I wasn't familiar with how professional qualifications work in the UK, which is different to Spain.
In addition, I got chartered with the ICE through the European route for mutual recognition, and I felt this route wasn't well understood by employers or colleagues.
It was a learning curve that I overcame by looking for guidance from other European colleagues and from the ICE.
CM: Spanish engineering degrees are recognised by the ICE and there are a few routes to membership available to us.
The biggest obstacle is understanding these routes and designing a plan specific to your circumstances.
There’s a lot of information available, but it can be overwhelming. It’s key to have a mentor or supervising civil engineer, or even a keen colleague, to break it down for you.
LB: For me, the main obstacle was the lack of knowledge of the Spanish training to become a civil engineer.
Truthfully, it's very difficult to compare the training at university between the UK and Spain to become a civil engineer.
Yet, despite the differences in the degrees, I recommend going through the training scheme to become a chartered member of the ICE.
What would be your #1 piece of advice for Spanish engineers looking to become qualified with the ICE?
NP: If they’re planning to stay in the UK in the medium or long term, I would recommend becoming qualified as soon as possible. It’s easy to keep delaying it but then life will likely get in the way.
Moreover, I’d highly recommend they take part in all the activities the ICE offers, as the exposure will boost their careers, and they’ll have fun at the same time.
CM: My main piece of advice is to get involved: attend events, join a committee, submit articles to the ICE Journal... There’s definitely something for everyone.
This isn’t only the fastest way to become qualified, but also how you will get the most out of the institution.
LB: Go for it! The ICE is the home of our profession, a great place to learn, to grow professionally and even to volunteer.
When I first came to the UK in 2000, there were 30 of us working in the UK. We’re now more than 400 members of the Colegio working for Spanish and British companies.
I think it’s essential to be part of your professional body wherever you are, and to get the most of it. I’m a member of the ICE London Regional Committee, and I’m also the country representative of the Colegio in the UK.
I can help from both sides!
If you’re interested in getting further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.