Engineers join forces to fight skills shortage

Two major engineering bodies have joined forces to tackle the skills crisis
in the industry. The Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) and EMTA,
formerly the NTO for engineering manufacture, last month signed a memorandum of
understanding, sealing their commitment to work in partnership to boost skills
levels.

The main aim is to pave the way for advanced modern apprentices to obtain
recognition through the Engineering and Technology Board, the industry’s
professional registration body.

"We’re working with EMTA to ensure the right standards are in place in
company apprenticeship schemes so the people on them are eligible for
registration as engineering technicians or, perhaps through additional study or
experience at work, as incorporated engineers," said John Beale, head of
publications and promotions at the IIE.

The partnership will help young people who achieve work-based qualifications
overcome barriers to gaining professional recognition, which was previously
restricted to those who followed the academic route. It is part of a bid to
increase the number of engineers professionally qualified at the intermediate
levels, relative to those attaining the highest status of chartered engineer.

"In the past the emphasis has been on chartered engineers but we need
to redress the balance," said Beale. "More and more employers are
coming to realise that what they want are people with the right skills set and
knowledge base who are able to add immediate value to their business. That’s
why we’re working with EMTA and employers to make sure that happens."

EMTA chief executive, Dr Michael Sanderson, explained: "The area of
skills where our companies need most help is at the intermediate level, and the
IIE looks after that group. What we’re looking to do is treat NVQ level 3 as
part of the evidence towards membership of the institution. Obviously we’ll do
other co-operative things too."

Joint initiatives will seek to build integrated frameworks for engineering
and technology qualifications, encourage employer-led development schemes and
respond effectively to emerging skills issues.

Another area will be to develop and promote means for continuing
professional development (CPD). EMTA, which is on course to become the Sector
Skills Council for technology, engineering and science, runs a number of
learndirect open learning centres. It is now seeking to present training
material it produced for BBC Learning Zone programmes in a user-friendly format
on the web. "We’re working with Redbus, which has done a lot of work with
dentists on CPD, to produce mini courses on-line where learners can be assessed
and get a certificate," said Sanderson. "I think that should be of
great interest to the IIE and I shall be presenting it to them to see if we can
work together in that area as well."

By Elaine Essery

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