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A reviewer for the ICE’s professional reviews on what it takes to become a qualified engineer.

ICE Publishing at the Frankfurt Book Fair
How do you become a professionally qualified engineer?
  • Updated: 21 Jul 2020
  • Author: Patrick Waterhouse, a reviewer for the ICE’s professional reviews

The development of a professional civil engineer starts, at least for the employers, after the completion of an academic qualification such as a degree. For the trainee they may well consider that their professional development started whilst studying. For those who undertook summer placements or years out in industry this will certainly be the case. What follows academic study is initial professional development (IPD) and what often proves to be a difficult transition from academia to the workplace. The methods of learning at university differ considerably from those whilst working. There is less structure in the workplace and much more self-reliance needed to develop.

Initial professional development
Those wanting to qualify as a professional civil engineer are ultimately seeking to demonstrate, at a professional review, that they have the attributes sought by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). These attributes include the two key areas of engineering knowledge and engineering application. To these are added a further seven professional attributes including commercial, health & safety, sustainability and professional commitment. The standards are set by the Engineering Council and then applied by the ICE. They are designed to replicate what civil engineers will need to thrive at work and to be competent.

The development of any professional civil engineer in the workplace will not be linear. Opportunities may arise at short notice and will need to be seized upon. Learning from doing is different to the structured delivery of lectures at university and not all trainees are adept at spotting and taking advantage of opportunities when they come along. The support of a mentor is key to assist this process. Trainee civil engineers under an ICE training agreement have the support of a supervising civil engineer to help their development, and possibly the support of others too, in a mentoring relationship. A system of meetings, development reports and the regular measurement of progress provides some of the structure that would otherwise be missing. It is important for the trainee to make the most of this relationship and “understand what lies behind the process, explains Veronica Flint Williams of Environment Agency.

As trainees progress through their career they will become less reliant on the detailed support of their mentors and more self-supporting. With the ability to self-plan and to recognise development opportunities they will progress to achieving the ICE’s nine attributes before deciding (with support from their mentors) when to sit a professional review. The review is an independent assessment of their attributes though the submission of a report, delivery of a presentation, an interview and a piece of written work undertaken in exam conditions. The trainee’s mentor and others in the support network will need to judge when the time is right to sit a review and this will involve a dispassionate review of the trainee’s progress. This is a key decision for the mentor and trainee.

Continuing professional development
Of course, (hopefully) passing a professional review is not the end of the process. Members of the ICE (as with those in every other professional body) have a duty to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) and to support the CPD of others. I am encouraged by the speed with which many recently qualified engineers start to support the development of the next generation. Continuing development not only complies with the Institution’s requirements but will add to the engineer’s employability and marketability. Many engineers also go on to become mentors to new graduates, completing the circle.

You might want to move your career forward and become a qualified engineer but it’s not unusual to feel stuck not knowing how or even where to begin. From understanding the professional reviews process to mentoring graduate engineers to hone their skills, Bundle: ICE Professional Development, available in print, offers a full and thorough overview of the ICE’s processes and the civil engineering industry more widely. You can also find the content in eBook format: