The life & times of an HVAC Engineer

Since getting chartered I’ve decided to play a more active role in my professional institute, CIBSE. After e-mailing the chairman of the local committee, and attending my first meeting, I’ve now been appointed the role of ‘Education Liaison Officer’ (or ELO) for CIBSE in the West Midlands. I’ve also got a seat on the committee itself.

I was only elected to the role a week ago, but since then I’ve endeavoured to get in touch with as many of the other engineering institute’s local committees as possible. Where they have one I’ve been getting in touch with other Education/School Liaison Officers, and where they don’t I’m getting in touch with the chairmen or secretaries. In less than a week I’ve already received an overwhelmingly positive response.

Every person I’ve spoken to is really enthusiastic either about sharing the knowledge and experience they already have regarding school events & engagement, or about getting involved with joint events with CIBSE. It’s so inspiring to be speaking to such passionate, interested and motivated individuals. It really makes me excited about what it may be possible to achieve together.

In my experience school pupils don’t have enough opportunities to see and hear about what engineering is, and what exciting engineering is taking place around them. Then we (that’s both ‘we’ the engineering industry, and ‘we’ British society) are surprised when not enough young people choose to pursue careers in engineering. The engineering population is aging, and unless more graduates and apprentices enter the industry we will be left with a serious lack of staff and knowledge in 10-15 years time. That’s not just my opinion, but something that companies such as Centrica are sufficiently concerned about to have commissioned surveys around the topic.

One of the ways to change things for the better is simply for engineers and engineering companies to go into schools and explain what they do, why it’s important and what is exciting about it. Hopefully in my new voluntary role as ELO (Education Liaison Officer, not Electric Light Orchestra) I’ll be able to take part in, and facilitate, lots of opportunities for students to meet engineers. Who knows, perhaps this is the start of a West Midlands movement to re-engage with schools and students and inspire a new generation of engineers…


{February 14, 2011}   At last…

I’ve not written a blog post for a while, things have been very busy with getting documents ready to issue for construction, being interviewed by Radio 4, and taking a week off to go skiing. But most significantly, to my career at least, I was preparing and attending my presentation and interview to become a Chartered Engineer and Member of CIBSE
So, for those of you who are not engineers, what does it mean to be a Chartered Engineer?

In the most basic of terms it means that you have gained the appropriate qualifications and experience to prove that you’re a competent and respectable engineer…that you can, amongst other things, innovate, negotiate and calculate. In the words of the Engineering Council UK (the body that regulates the professional competence standards):

“Chartered Engineers develop appropriate solutions to engineering problems. They may develop and apply new technologies, promote advanced designs and design methods and introduce new and more efficient production techniques, or pioneer new engineering services and management methods. The title CEng is protected by civil law and is one of the most recognisable international engineering qualifications.”

Becoming chartered can potentially mean a promotion and an increase in pay, as many companies set the bar for becoming a Senior Engineer as chartership. It means you can put letters after your name (well it’s always nice to get a higher score in scrabble), and those letters get you a certain amount of professional recognition and respect. Use it right and it can get you access to learning, get you the European title of Eur Ing (letters you can put in front of your name for recognition in more countries), improve your career prospects and give you a greater influence within the industry.

For me though, becoming Chartered is all about pride, self-respect, and hopefully shaking off some of the assumptions I get about being a secretary or ‘just a little girl’. It’s something I’ve worked very hard for since before I even started my degree. When choosing a university course one of my main criteria was that it had to be accredited by the Engineering Council as without accredited qualifications becoming chartered can be very difficult. That’s not to say it’s easy as it is of course! I worked hard through my degree and when I started work I was always careful to keep a log book and a training record. I’ve also tried to use the competency criteria that are used for assessing you for chartership as a guide for my career development. During appraisals I tended to push for opportunities that would get me the experience I needed to deepen my knowledge in areas where I was lacking.

All of that effort has made for an exciting, fast paced, and sometimes really exhausting few years. But, as I found out today, it has all been worth it as I’m now a Chartered Engineer. Hurrah!

et cetera
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