In a blog which originally appeared in NCE magazine Ed McCann says ICE should become the natural home for a wide variety of engineers working in infrastructure.
As the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus once said: “The only constant in life is change”.
Like all long-lived organisations, the ICE has had to adapt to changing circumstances. Its continued existence speaks to its success. The extent and character of the changes are outlined in Hugh Ferguson’s excellent book “The Civil Engineers…”.
Among other things, Hugh’s book reveals that throughout its history, the ICE has fulfilled two fundamental roles for civil engineers: operating as a community of practice and as a qualifying body. Of course, the focus of the community changes over time, depending on societal needs and emerging technology. Similarly, what and how we qualify also evolves.
Broadening the membership has been extensively debated in recent years at Council, and the ICE Trustees have carefully considered the way in which modern infrastructure involves more disciplines and organisations than in the past. From smart motorways to satellite monitoring of assets, from digital twins to Nature-Based Solutions - the world of infrastructure is moving fast.
In this changing environment, there are many engineers who don’t currently have a “natural” Institutional home. We believe that the ICE could, and should, be such a home. The people we're talking about are highly qualified and experienced professionals who we work with regularly, many with backgrounds in IT, manufacturing and process engineering. We believe that ICE will gain much from their wholehearted participation in our activities.
In broadening our community to include this new generation of infrastructure engineers, we face something of an identity crisis. It turns out there really is quite a lot in a name.
The term civil engineer has evolved beyond its original meaning of “non-military” and whilst still comparatively broad, doesn’t comfortably capture all engineering roles in infrastructure.
We know that many active members already feel uncomfortable about any reduction in the focus of our qualifications on traditional civil engineering skills, including structures, soil mechanics and hydraulics.
At the same time, the new generation of infrastructure engineers don’t identify as civil, having studied other subjects.
This has led Trustees to secure an opportunity for the ICE to own the title and associated qualification of Chartered Infrastructure Engineer. We believe over time this title will be attractive to high calibre engineers, working in infrastructure, who do not identify as civil engineers.
If we embrace this opportunity, then the standards used for the qualification will be set by the Engineering Council, just as with our existing Chartered Civil Engineer qualification. We will set the qualification bar just as high.
Sceptics may think that this is about growing revenue. I can assure them that it’s not. It’s about making sure we develop and maintain a vibrant, active and relevant membership to enable us to continue delivering our mission well into the future.
ICE’s trustees have recommended changes which will require amendments to the Royal Charter and By-laws. Members will be asked to approve the changes in a ballot opening in June 2021.