Getting Chartered

April 2017

View from the registrant: Mike Lotinga, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Our company recently held a ‘Professional Institutions Week’ in which speakers from various engineering and professional bodies gave talks aimed at introducing the benefits offered by institutions to those in early stages of their careers. I volunteered to give an account of my recent experience in getting registered with the Engineering Council, the regulatory body in the UK that offers a range of registration options for budding engineers, including Technician (EngTech), Incorporated (IEng) and Chartered (CEng). ‘Registration’ is a bit of a misnomer, in that it implies filling in a form and paying a fee, but the real pathway is a fair bit more arduous and worthwhile. The scale of requirements obviously differ depending on the registration being applied for, but the main components are i) education, ii) training and iii) application – the core of the registration process is demonstrating how these aspects show the skills, competencies, and awareness expected of a professional engineer, as set out in the Engineering Council’s standard (SPEC).

My own journey began several years ago, when, having had an informal chat with a recent registrant, I decided to leave my first career job and go back into full-time education, to complete a Master’s degree. This is not an option available to all, but fortunately there are alternatives, such as part-time distance learning while working; tough, but certainly achievable, as demonstrated by one of my colleagues who finished a Master’s last year (and has also written in this blog about transferability of skills from other industries to consultancy work). It is of course worth checking with the IOA before enrolling on a degree course, whether the learning outcomes are aligned with the education requirements of registration, and this was one of the first steps I took once I had decided that acoustic engineering was the direction I was heading in.

When I’d completed my degree, I contacted the Institute again to signal my intent for registration, and was advised to identify a mentor (a registered engineer) to guide my development. This can be an important step; certainly for me I found the advice I got invaluable and helped me to focus on the most important areas that would help me meet the requirements. Having an honest look at your own skills is also important – identify the gaps and plan ways to fill them – wallpapering over the cracks is not a good solution, as the purpose of registration is to turn out well-rounded and reliable engineers, not to simply award post-nominals; the interview process will expose stretching of the evidence!

Preparation of the necessary paperwork is helped enormously if you keep a good ongoing CPD record, and in any case this is another of the submission requirements, so it’s really essential to keep this up to date and be as exhaustive as possible. Talking to your employer is also a very good idea, so that you can plan your development and your project assignments to target any areas that you feel could do with bolstering. At our company there is also an incentive scheme to encourage budding engineers to get registered – explicit recognition of the value that organisations place on it!

My route to registration required me to submit a report detailing my training, and another, the ‘Professional Review Interview’ (PRI) report that documented my experience over several projects, highlighting where the SPEC competencies had been demonstrated. This latter report forms the basis for the interview, so it’s important to ensure everything in it can be backed up with evidence, as it will be discussed in some detail. For me, the preparation of this was a two-way process: I started it before I had all the evidence I needed, and this helped me to focus in my project work and identify opportunities where I might be able to bring a particular competency requirement to the fore – this had the complementary effect of developing the broadness of my engineering understanding and awareness.

Come interview day I felt anxious but confident: I’d spent so much time preparing for it that I was actually looking forward to getting in there and talking about the work I’d been doing! The process was made less nerve-wracking by the IOA’s engineering manager Blane Judd, who offered some general tips and advice for the interview. I was interviewed by two engineers who asked me a wide range of questions, many about the specifics of the PRI information, but also broader questions concerning more general engineering understanding. Having brought a range of supporting evidence with me, I felt fairly comfortable in giving answers that I felt represented what I knew, and asking for clarifications on anything I wasn’t sure about. By the time I left I felt exhilarated by the experience.

I would really recommend registration at any level as a valuable way to develop broader and deeper skills, and to reflect on your learning and get the best value out of it. Employers look favourably on it, as they understand the commitment required to get there. The pathway I took is not the only one – alternatives for those whose experience may have provided equivalent knowledge to traditional degrees are also available. The IOA can give advice on the process, and on identifying suitable mentors, so there’s no excuse for procrastination – make the most of your skills and experience!

View from the interviewer: John Lloyd, Scotch Partners

As an interviewer of candidates who are seeking registration with the Engineering Council through the Institute of Acoustics, the foremost purpose of the interview is for me to reassure myself that the candidate does have the competencies required of an engineer at the relevant grade applied for, be that an Incorporated Engineer or a Chartered Engineer.  If the candidate has provided a well prepared and fully considered PRI report this process becomes easier and far more pleasurable for the candidate, myself and my fellow interviewer alike.   The presumption is that if you have been invited to interview you will have the requisite ability to become a Registered Engineer.

Usually the information and projects presented within the PRI report are used as a basis for discussion but if the report lacks enough information to demonstrate a competency, other relevant topics will be introduced in an attempt to better establish the candidate’s abilities.

At interview it is not possible to avoid covering a particular competency.  Those competencies relating to technical knowledge and understanding are clearly very important and may get the most attention whilst some of the “softer” ones such as “managing and applying safe systems of work” or “sustainable development” may not obviously relate to acoustics and therefore not seem as important.  But all will be covered and given their respective weight in the marking.  The “softer” topics also often allow the candidate to, hopefully, demonstrate their wider knowledge of engineering and their role within the engineering profession.  

The interview also provides an opportunity for candidates to bring additional material with them that may help them demonstrate their knowledge.  This can include bringing samples, imagery or presentation material which aids explanation and discussion.  This is particularly useful where the acoustic or engineering topic is very specialised and expected to be outside the sphere of the interviewers’ normal engineering knowledge.

Feedback from candidates and interviewers alike is that the overall interview experience can be very rewarding.  I have been privileged to interview some very talented and capable engineers who work in both mainstream and high specialised aspects of acoustic engineering and it is always a pleasure when one can recommend that their abilities should be formally acknowledged.