Engineering lecturers gear up for recognition by industry

20th July 2007 at 01:00

lecturers in engineering are being offered the same professional status as their colleagues in industry if they complete work placements to update their knowledge.

The deal has been agreed by the professional body the Institute for Engineering and Technology which will allow them to become full members.

Membership will be offered to those who go through the placement scheme operated by the New Engineering Foundation. Those who complete the scheme are made "fellows" a recognition of their increased expertise in their subject.

In an agreement with the foundation, the institute is now saying it will recognise these fellowships as a qualification for membership.

The institute has more than 150,000 members worldwide and acts as a lobbying organisation to represent the profession, as well as setting standards and offering training and career development

But Professor Sa'ad Medhat, chief executive of the foundation, said he was confident that lecturers would use their membership to develop their careers in further education despite the lure of a better-paid job in industry.

He said: "Lecturers really want opportunities to update themselves.

"With the new requirement for 30 hours of continuous professional development a year, we expect there will be more demand for placements. There is an increasing requirement for level 3 (A-level equivalent) and level 4 (degree equivalent) and we need to ensure lecturers are able to deliver at each level with up-to-date knowledge.

"Membership of the institute puts lecturers in a position where they can share ideas and information with their peers in industry. We have people with small and large companies. To gain such support from Europe's largest professional engineering society is of great credit to our fellows and the work they do.

"Further education is all too often neglected. But this sort of boost from the institute shows that both they and we are serious about inspiring the next generation of engineers and technologists."

The NEF fellowship scheme has supported 180 lecturers in 70 colleges since April 2005. The scheme has involved 350 companies including car giant Nissan.

The foundation is concerned that the content of FE engineering courses often becomes out of touch with latest industry practice because colleges are less generously funded than universities, despite the pressure to be ever more vocationally relevant.

Professor Medhat, who set up the foundation, previously had a high-profile position with computer company IBM, where he had responsibility for putting new products on to the market.

The scheme gives colleges financial compensation for releasing lecturers on secondment to industry on the same principle as Lecturers into Industry, a scheme run by the Learning and Skills Development Agency in Northern Ireland.

At present, there is no public sector equivalent of the Ulster scheme or the NEF programme in Britain.

Andrew Phillips, head of membership of the institute, said: "We are delighted to be able to support engineering and technology in further education. From September, FE lecturers will be required to undertake at least 30 hours of CPD each year, so that they continue to deliver high quality learning. The NEF's fellowship scheme enables lecturers to engage with companies as well as interlocking them with the engineering and technology profession."

Engineering industry facts

One in eight engineering firms employ staff recognised by the Government as trainees including apprentices

60 per cent say lack of qualified applicants leads to recruitment problems

A further 37 per cent put it down to lack of suitable work experience

Practical experience rather than qualification is still seen as the most important qualification for a job

More than 50 per cent say their skills requirements have changed over a three year period because of developments in the industry

A third of employers either fund or arrange training for employees every year

48 per cent of training is in-house

28 per cent of training is in FE colleges

39 per cent is run by private training outfits

7 per cent is given by universities.

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