According to Malpas ‘Engineering is the knowledge required, and the process applied, to conceive, design, make, build, operate, sustain, recycle or retire, something with significant technical content for a specified purpose.’ (Malpas, 2000). This is a very broad definition which encompasses a wide varieties of activities both professional and unprofessional, under this definition anyone building a set of shelves from a flat-pack box is engineering.
In the UK there are no formal requirements which must be achieved before one can claim to be a professional engineer. The term professional engineer is not protected which has led to a wide variety of persons from different backgrounds and industries with varying levels of skills and knowledge claiming this title. An exemplifying example of this is the use of the term ‘domestic engineer’ to apply to a stay at home parent
In the UK, the engineering industry is regulated by the Engineering Council who delegate the responsibility of accrediting engineers to 35 engineering societies. There are 3 levels of accreditation;
- Engineering technicians (EngTech) who carry out engineering work using known techniques.
- Incorporated Engineers (IEng) who are able to apply relevant techniques to a given problem.
- Chartered Engineers (CEng) who are able to create new techniques to address problems.
These titles are protected and a person must register with the Engineering Council and meet certain requirements in order to use them. These requirements involve demonstrating capability and knowledge relevant to the qualification and based on the UK’s regulation standards ‘UK spec’. A person must also have a degree before they can qualify to achieve these titles. However membership to an engineering society and accreditation are both optional and not legally enforced.
Becoming a member of an engineering society gives an individual a particular credibility and can lead on to that individual being entered on to the Engineering Council’s register, giving further credibility and Industry recognition. ‘Professional registration provides a benchmark through which the public, employers and their clients can have confidence and trust that registered engineers and technicians have met globally recognised professional standards.’ (Engineering Council, 2015)
However, under the current system in the UK the term engineer does not guarantee any level of competence or qualifications and since knowledge of this system is generally restricted to persons within the engineering industry a lay person is unlikely to know to look for this accreditation which can lead to negative experiences for customers of unqualified engineers.
Malpas (2000) The Universe of Engineering, an Engineering Perspective [Online], Royal Academy of Engineering, Available at http://www.engc.org.uk/engcdocuments/internet/Website/The%20Universe%20of%20Engineering%20Report%20(The%20Malpas%20Report).pdf (Accessed 04/02/16).
Engineering Council (2015) Guidelines for Institution Codes of Conduct [Online]. Available at http://www.engc.org.uk/engcdocuments/internet/website/Guidelines%20for%20Institution%20Codes%20of%20Conduct.pdf (Accessed 04/02/16).