Technicians in Britain--In the U.K., Technician Engineers are Tops (July 1975)


By E.A. BROMFIELD/Secretary (The Institution of Electrical and Electronics Technician Engineers)

A recent authoritative survey has revealed that over one million technician engineers and technicians will be required by 1975. The United Kingdom is now laying the basis for their professional recognition.

IN the United Kingdom, most professional engineers of all disciplines are members of the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI) and are referred to as "chartered." Until recently it has been possible to become a chartered engineer based on past experience but without having a-professional degree. This is being changed and all chartered engineers of the future will have to be degreed engineers.

The Technician Engineer

In view of this, it has become necessary to set up a separate title for engineers without degrees whose qualifications, training, and experience nonetheless entitle them to be called engineers. In fact, these men outnumber chartered engineers by a ratio of 4:1. The generic designation "technician" would not be suitable since it is used as indiscriminately as the generic "engineer." The widespread acceptance of the title "technician engineer," however, (from the Continental concept ingénier technicien) shows that it has provided the long-sought compromise. This term is used by all engineering disciplines, government departments, educational establishments, industry, and by the Council of Engineering Institutions.

In all sectors of electrical and electronic engineering, technician engineers are expert in the application of specific engineering techniques--whether in manufacturing, operations, maintenance, or research and development work.

These non-chartered engineers carry out a wide variety of specialized activities wherever electricity is used as a means of power, control, and communication. Technician engineers provide the detailed information from which engineering decisions are made and influence the selection of materials and apparatus. They obtain their academic qualifications--HNC (Higher National Certificate) or CGL[ (Full Technological Certificate of the City and Guilds of London Institute)--by part -time day courses with technical college attendance once a week, or by block-release and evenings--only courses. (Block-release is an arrangement whereby employers send young employees to technical colleges for a period of several weeks at a time, while still paying their wages.) With their good, near-degree academic attainment, allied to specialist training and experience, electrical and electronics technician engineers have a distinct identity and status. For them, career prospects have never been better than they are today because more and more of them are needed to occupy "kingpin" positions in every branch of industry as well as in a managerial/supervisory role.

The Technician

The technician, also in short supply (particularly in the electronics field) requires similar technical knowledge and skills, although not quite so high, but still substantial. Many technicians reaching the requisite technical educational and experience levels develop into good technician engineers.

A research report by the Engineering Industry Training Board published on December 8, 1970, gives added emphasis to the distinction between technicians and technician engineers. The difference "lies less in the actual activities of the two than in the technician engineer's greater breadth of knowledge and wider range of activities, backed by a higher level of attainment in further education." In 1967, following a request by the Government, the National Advisory Council on Education and Commerce set up a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. H.L. Haslegrave (a former vice-chancellor of the Loughborough University of Technology) to review the provision of courses suitable for technicians at all levels--including corresponding grades in non-technical occupations--and to consider what changes should be made in the present structure of courses and examinations. The Haslegrave Committee, whose report appeared in December, 1969, concluded that the present complex pattern should be replaced by a simple, two-tier system of certificates and diplomas, and that national certificates and CGLI awards should be gradually phased out. They recommended that a Technician Education Council be established--along with a Business Education Council for non-technical fields--to plan and regulate the new structure, with the CGLI acting as the administering body to serve the two Councils.

There has been a widespread support within engineering circles to setting up an Engineers Registration Board and just at press time we have been advised that such a board has been set up under the aegis of the CEI (Council of Engineering Institutions). This Board will register all three categories: Chartered Engineer, Technician Engineer, and Technician. It is intended that titles and designatory initials shall be awarded under protective powers derived from the CEI's Royal Charter. It is believed that such a comprehensive, authoritative system of registration will improve the standing of the entire U.K. engineering profession and industry, will dissipate the existing confusion over qualifications and titles, and will help to encourage more young men to seek a career in engineering.

(Editor's Note: Information about technician engineering careers in Britain's electrical and electronics fields can be obtained from the author, 2 Savoy Hill, London WC2R, OBS, England.)

(adapted from: Electronics World magazine; Jul. 1975)


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