Few people are aware of the very significant influence the IET has on society on behalf of the Engineering profession. The Institution for Engineering and Technology is a 163,000-member charity that spends most of its retained income on member services for the good of the profession, and represents the interests of the entire engineering sector with its national and international communities. The Institution has a pre-eminent publishing and Knowledge Service business, which, with membership subscriptions, supports the charitable activities. Impact and societal benefit is achieved in many ways: by providing support and tools for professional development, also evidence and advice to government independently, and with the Royal Academy of Engineering and other professional engineering institutions. An IET staff member recently worked with the Chief Scientific Advisor of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to write a review of the Engineering Skills shortage.
The Institution can boast of being the professional home to five Chief Scientific Advisors to UK government departments: John Perkins at Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Brian Collins BIS and the Department for Transport (DfT), John Loughhead at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Phil Blythe recently appointed to DfT, and myself at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Most of us have also served as Trustees.
As a Trustee and Deputy President, I am particularly proud of the way, through ‘one team working’ the Members, Trustees and Staff work together through a culture of transparency and collaboration, both internally and externally. Together, we seek continuous improvement in our processes and services.
Recent work in process improvement has centred on governance. A strategy development – Governance for the Future (G4F) – is the democratic product of more than three years discussion, debate and iteration with the IET Council, Trustees and other boards. G4F seeks to provide a stronger voice for those members who actively volunteer and a clear pathway from Council membership to the Trustee board for all who aspire to serve at a senior level of governance within the Institution. And soon these proposals will be put to a general member vote.
Service development is also well advanced. The refurbishment of Savoy Place, the home of the IET, is nearly complete with the building in use again from October this year. Savoy Place will be the most impressive and well-equipped engineering institution HQ in the UK, and the clear ‘go-to’ venue for engineering meetings. New policies ensure that member groupings have free access to meeting rooms. This will be of particular importance for meetings of professional experts, and it will underpin the value of institutional membership.
The IET is going places – maintaining while re-interpreting its traditional values, and developing new ways of benefiting its members and society at large. There are some significant challenges though: to avoid disenfranchising older members as new ways of engaging through social media become the norm; to ensure the IET is strongly relevant to all engineering communities, particularly academic as well as industrial; and to encourage young people to develop an interest in engineering careers. Getting more young women into Engineering would be a straightforward way to address the shortfall in engineers available for recruitment in the UK. This will require the right messages being delivered to schools and parents alike; these messages need to include role model narratives and career profiles of successful engineers of both genders.