Council held its third meeting of the 2020 session on 20 October. In a full day, the Council listened to a series of presentations setting out how the ICE has transformed during the Covid pandemic.
In the latest update, the Council reviewed the Institution’s financial position. The lockdown has meant that we have hosted fewer face-to-face events, and this has reduced our costs. Regrettably we have also implemented a limited redundancy programme as well. But every year the ICE hires out rooms in One Great George Street and this income has of course reduced very significantly.
The good news is that we have taken quick, firm action and our financial position is robust. In parallel volunteers and staff have been working together closely to enable members to access knowledge and insight digitally, and that those members seeking professional review are able to do so remotely.
Administering the regions
As part of the Institution’s efforts to manage the impact of coronavirus, trustees have looked hard at how we administer our regions. Council was briefed on these plans in July; and updated at this meeting. The English regions have been restructured, and the staff in the International Department have, where possible, been subsumed into the Membership Recruitment and Regional Support teams. This realignment has added significant impetus to ICE’s regional activity: a point made by a number of Council members.
Council heard how each of the eight international regions are now twinned with one of the eight UK Regions. International regions which previously had no staff regional director or support team now find themselves part of a team and are briefed fortnightly. This promises to be a very powerful force multiplier. In particular our regions now have access to the full suite of membership staff, rather than just their own smaller regional team. This agility is reflected within the regional support teams where 30+ staff offer experience, expertise and insights for our international members. The bespoke nature of the old structure was effective in building relationships – the new structure is different but will prove better in taking forward our objectives.
Working with government
The Director of Policy gave a comprehensive update setting out how the ICE works with governments to explain the role of civil engineers in delivering infrastructure, and how governments can enhance both the quality of infrastructure, and the way on which it is planned and delivered. Council stressed the importance of our policy work drawing on the global insight of our membership so that we can genuinely raise global engineering standards and spread best practice.
One of the Orr Commission recommendations is that the Council should operate as the pinnacle of the Learning Society. There has been much work on this over the last six months and Council has driven a progressive and innovative knowledge agenda despite the ravages of the pandemic. Council has asked to review progress to date more formally in December, and also has directed that they will set further direction for the knowledge programme in line with the five key themes embedded in the Institution’s plan.
Measuring the performance of the Institution
In all of this, Council was exercising its duty to monitor and advise on the performance of the Institution. But Council has also been wrestling with a series of difficult issues for the membership. Over the last two years, it has debated, and consulted the membership, on proposals to extend voting rights for graduates. Unsurprisingly, this debate has prompted a wide range of views and, in bringing the debate to a head, Council wanted to hear the views of the wider membership. They therefore held a panel discussion, open to all members, during the morning of Council. Speakers included Past-President Paul Jowitt, Chris Burton, Chair of the Professionalism Panel, Daaoud Shafi the chair of the Graduate and Students Network and Louise Hetherington, a President’s Future Leader.
An impressive debate
This was a really impressive debate, with persuasive arguments from both sides. Council noted that people instinctively assume that graduates are young and relatively inexperienced. This is not true: we have a sizeable cohort of graduates with many years’ experience. And people on all sides noted that if we trust our graduates to make recommendations on engineering projects, we should trust them to weigh the issues facing the Institution as well. Persuasive arguments were also put forward to ensure that the Professional Review standards are not diluted in any way since they form the “Gold Standard” of Chartership to our Institution. Council reflected on everything they had heard later in the morning, and, in line with the Orr Commission, the results of their deliberations will be provided as advice to the Trustee Board at its meeting next month. It is likely that a number of questions will then be posed to the membership in our ballot next June recommending changes to graduate voting rights.