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  • Publicatie 1 August 2021

 

 

It is nearly 25 years since I came to the UK and throughout this time I have tirelessly tried, like many others, to change perceptions of engineering, to inspire young people to consider the opportunities of such an amazing discipline, to attract more women to the profession. All, to little, or no avail.

We need more engineers. The world needs them desperately to solve the challenges we are facing, and to prevent those we cannot even imagine yet. But no, we have failed, time and again, to convince parents and children, in this country, that engineering is not just a functional but a noble career.

Source Prof. Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

1. About role models

I have seen governments, and various relevant bodies, commission report after report, to investigate why this is the case. And time after time, we conclude similar things; people don’t understand what engineering is and does; there aren’t enough role models; the profession is not recognised like in other countries; the educational system funnels too early preventing young people from changing their minds about their careers; engineers are not paid comparably to other countries; etcetera; etcetera.

 

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Years ago, I wrote an article asking, ‘do we need another war to get more women into engineering?’. In the first and second world wars, women were left in charge of the engineering jobs, whilst men went to serve their country. When the wars finished, women returned to doing their expected jobs, and whilst nowadays women do more than homemaking, not many choose engineering.

Of course, I do not believe we need a literal war. But failing everything else perhaps it is time we begin a war of words.

2. Engineers is not about engines?

It has long been my view that this and all English-speaking countries needed to change the name of the profession. I am a native Spanish speaker who grew up in the Northeast of Mexico, in the industrial city of Monterrey. I did not have any role models; in fact, I was the first person to go to university in my family. But in addition to the Mexican educational system allowing me to consider my options up to the point of going into Higher Education; that engineers are paid as well as doctors; that technicians, electricians, mechanics are not called engineers; I did understand that engineering is not about engines but about ingenuity and innovation.

3, The Engineer

You see, engineer in Spanish is ‘ingeniero’, in German is ingenieur, in French is ingénieur, in Norwich is ingeniør, you get my point? All of these words come from the word ‘ingenious’ or ‘ingenuity’. They even sound as such.

Let me say it again. We do not have time anymore. Climate change is destroying the world, pandemics will be not one in a century occurrence anymore, poverty and hunger will only increase, and these are only the things we know now. We cannot afford beating around the bushes with report after report anymore, spending money for very little or no change in return. We need this country to wake up to what engineers actually do, which is solving those very problems with their creativity, ingenuity and innovation, so that every child in the country aspires to be one of them.

So, here it is, I challenge the United Kingdom and all the Professional Engineering Bodies to do the unthinkable, change the name of the profession!

We already lost it to people who fix TVs, washing machines, cars, the boiler, important jobs but not engineering jobs. What else is there to lose?

You may be either screaming at me for such blasphemy, or hopefully, be asking what else can we call engineers if not engineers?

4. The Ingeniator

My answer is that we go back to the beginning, to where it all began. Engineer comes from the Latin word ‘Ingeniator’, derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to create, generate, contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).

Ingeniator, a change-maker individual who uses their ingenuity to create ideas, to generate answers, to contrive solutions, to devise artefacts, products, processes and systems that can help us all in our pursuit to get this world back on track. The discipline Ingineering.

And perhaps, just perhaps, by the mere fact that we will all have to explain to parents, to children, to teachers, and to one another the new name of the profession, we can then change those ingrained perceptions about such an important discipline and give us all, who chose this career, the pride to be called what we are, respected for what we do, and supported to do our jobs.

But most importantly, to give the next generation of ingeniators, the aspiration and opportunity to pursue a career they feel proud of.

 

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