“It is important for every one of us to recognise that life-long learning is essential in a profession where we are delivering solutions for society”, Dame Judith Hackitt CEng FIChemE FREng said, during a recent event.
Author of the independent review of Building Safety and Fire Regulations carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and a Chartered Engineer, Dame Judith emphasised that constant learning and adaptation was a critical element of the job. “The world around us is changing – and changing fast. The skills and knowledge that we acquired early on in our career may not be appropriate for the challenges we now face."
All Engineering Council registrants make a commitment to maintain and enhance their competence. In practice, this means undertaking Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Speaking at the Saïd Business School on 'Engineering a better world', in an event hosted by Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and The Society of Construction Law, Dame Judith highlighted “Professional development is not just about acquiring technical knowledge but staying current with the way of the world and the problems that need solving today.”.
CPD is not - and cannot be - a one-off process, and at its heart is informal learning through the challenges and opportunities of working life. Dame Judith said “Particularly for young engineers, the future is going to change even faster so they have to be equipped with the ability not just to learn now but to recognise the need to continue to learn. But it equally applies to older engineers to bring themselves up to date not just technically but with what is going on in the world around them and societal expectations."
The CPD Code for Registrants requires all professionally registered engineers and technicians to take ownership of their learning and development needs, and develop a plan to meet them. The professional engineering institutions undertake annual random samples of registrants’ CPD records and provide appropriate feedback. Any registrant who persistently does not engage with requests for CPD records can be removed from the Engineering Council Register.
Dame Judith noted a shift in society's expectations and that engineers "are expected to behave differently, to deliver solutions with a much more environmental and social dimension to them.". In a recent article for 'The Chemical Engineer' (an Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) journal), she notes that it is important for engineers "to follow ethical principles and show that they care about achieving the right outcomes for society whatever their role in the system".
The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and the Engineering Council jointly created a Statement of Ethical Principles to guide engineering practice and behaviour, which is free and available to all those working in (or studying) engineering. All professionally registered engineers and technicians have committed to working in an ethical and socially responsible manner, in accordance with their institution's code of conduct.
Dame Judith was involved in the early stage of developing the Statement of Ethical Principles and said “If you can’t honestly say you have balanced things and have a clear conscience it is a real problem because we as engineers solve problems for society and if we don’t do it in a way that is professional and ethical we are betraying the trust we know we have to have from society.”.
A fuller account of Dame Judith's comments at the 'Engineering a better society' event is available in ICE journal, New Civil Engineer.
Image credit: IChemE