By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Allendale Jan 24th

The cultural status of engineers in the UK

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Robin Graham09/01/2020 23:11:01
691 forum posts
161 photos

Just some tea room musing.

I sometimes watch old WW2 propaganda films - mostly from the British point of view, as that's what comes up most often, but once I saw a German subtitled version. Sadly I can't remember what it was called but it involved a submarine in distress.

What struck me was that hero of the German film was the Chief Engineer who got the thing going again against all odds, whilst the hero in the British boats is usually the Captain. The strength of the British Captain is that by virtue of his cut glass accent, Oxbridge education and commanding manner he brings the crew together and they save the day, against all odds of course.

I am not an engineer myself but in my time as an acadaemic scientist I have often worked with (as it seems to me) very talented engineers and machinists. To give an example, I have the dubious distinction of being the first (and quite possibly the last) person to make a direct observation of the hyperfine splitting in Holmium by NMR. To do that it was necessary to make a microwave cavity which would work at 1.7K. I gave my design to the workshop guy - to his credit he didn't suck his teeth, he just gave me a sorrowful look, shook his head and two days later came back with a somewhat different cavity - which worked perfectly.

The point of the anecdote is that when the work went for publication 'workshop guy' was relegated from the byline to 'Acknowledgements'. Head of Department overruled me. I didn't like that. It wouldn't have worked without his skills, But you can't argue with HoD...

To come back to the thread title - I'd be interested to know how those of you who work or have worked in engineering or thereabouts view the status of the craft/art/discipline or whatever in the UK today.

Robin

Ian Johnson 109/01/2020 23:56:17
248 forum posts
77 photos

The status of engineering and associated trades is certainly gaining more respect in the UK these days, especially more so with the introduction of 'T' Level vocational qualifications which are set to be the equivalent of 'A' Level academic qualifications.

And it's my experience with both workshop and academia people that any fitter or engineer will always argue the toss with any head of department no matter how high they are in the food chain.

it seems to me that academia seem too eager to roll over and accept their so called peers commands.

Just my tuppence worth!

Ian

Chris Evans 610/01/2020 07:43:24
avatar
1627 forum posts

I spent my 50 year working life as a Toolmaker (Mould and Die) 22 of those years managing a company with 35 toolmakers. If I was in Italy or Germany I would be referred to as "Ing" and have some status for my skills. Here in the UK it is very much a blue collar/manual trade sneered at by many.

Buffer10/01/2020 08:09:14
146 forum posts
40 photos

Was it Das Boot

IanT10/01/2020 09:59:46
1500 forum posts
142 photos

I've lived and worked in both Germany and Italy - where engineering certainly seems to be ranked and regarded equally alongside other "Professions".

When I worked Milan the Italian MD was a qualified mechanical engineer and was referred to by staff as "Ingegnere" (I think that's the right spelling) as a matter of respect...in the same way we might refer to a Doctor over here. Maybe if we regarded our Engineers as highly as the German and Italians do - more young people would be encouraged to study something useful rather than something less so.... (I don't think I'll qualify that any further)

angel

Regards,

IanT

Ian Johnson 110/01/2020 10:02:50
248 forum posts
77 photos
Posted by Chris Evans 6 on 10/01/2020 07:43:24:

I spent my 50 year working life as a Toolmaker (Mould and Die) 22 of those years managing a company with 35 toolmakers. If I was in Italy or Germany I would be referred to as "Ing" and have some status for my skills. Here in the UK it is very much a blue collar/manual trade sneered at by many.

When I came out of my time I had the title of 'Esquire' abbreviated to 'Esq' on mail correspondence. After many years it seemed to fade away and was no longer used. Probably at the same time in the eighties when trades and skills were downgraded to an evil necessity in most companies, just when the service industries like banking, insurance and more office based work was becoming more prominent.

Thankfully the emphasis (in the UK) is turning back to a more balanced economy with a good mix of service and manufacturing, especially engineering.

Ian

Mike Poole10/01/2020 10:21:50
avatar
2538 forum posts
60 photos

As a schoolboy I was threatened that I would finish up in the car factory if I didn’t work harder. The teachers had no idea what went on in a car factory and most of them had never done anything that wasn’t school. Although it was a grammar school it fortunately for me had inspirational metalwork and woodwork teachers. Predictably I finished up in the car factory serving the best apprenticeship in the area by far. I must say I enjoyed every minute of my 44 years there but now retired on a very reasonable pension so it all worked out well. I wonder if jobs still exist that make you want to go to work rather than stay in bed?

Mike

Andrew Johnston10/01/2020 10:28:56
avatar
5402 forum posts
625 photos
Posted by IanT on 10/01/2020 09:59:46:

...in the same way we might refer to a Doctor over here.

A real one, or a medic?

Andrew

R Johns10/01/2020 10:30:03
24 forum posts

Moons ago as an apprentice we were told that because we got our hands dirty we were well down the social pecking order. Later on I worked as a gofer in an office in one of our major naval bases and the office workers who dictated policy and passed paper around all day were certainly looked upon much higher by management than the people who actually did the manual work. We seem to have our priorities completely wrong in this country.

John Haine10/01/2020 10:52:52
3009 forum posts
160 photos

Please PLEASE don't lets get started on this hoary old chestnut yet again! This has been discussed to death here I'm sure and in publications from the engineering institutions for at least 50 years. And it's not just an issue in the UK. We all know that without engineers society would be nowhere, just suck it up and get on with life.

Andrew Johnston10/01/2020 10:58:30
avatar
5402 forum posts
625 photos
Posted by John Haine on 10/01/2020 10:52:52:

Please PLEASE don't lets get started on this hoary old chestnut yet again!

+1, in spades.

Andrew

Robert Dodds10/01/2020 11:03:48
268 forum posts
36 photos

The fight for recognition was lost when the English spelling adopted Engineer as opposed to Ingenieur. The continentals associate it with ingenuity whilst the English more often think of blue coated mechanics and the Americans drive locomotives. C'est la vie!

Bob D

JA10/01/2020 11:11:49
894 forum posts
50 photos
Posted by John Haine on 10/01/2020 10:52:52:

Please PLEASE don't lets get started on this hoary old chestnut yet again! This has been discussed to death here I'm sure and in publications from the engineering institutions for at least 50 years. And it's not just an issue in the UK. We all know that without engineers society would be nowhere, just suck it up and get on with life.

Agreed, absolutely.

I spent all my working life as an engineer and enjoyed it. Friends, acquaintances and those who knew me did not disrespect me because I was an engineer.

This is a discussion that takes place in the outside world, a place that I know about less and less.

JA

Edited By JA on 10/01/2020 11:13:58

IanT10/01/2020 11:37:44
1500 forum posts
142 photos
Posted by JA on 10/01/2020 11:11:49:
This is a discussion that takes place in the outside world, a place that I know about less and less.

There's another world "outside"? surprise

IanT

Georgineer10/01/2020 12:45:45
340 forum posts
16 photos

In Britain the problem dates back to at least the nineteenth century, when those who had made their fortune in engineering or manufacturing were desperate to join the upper crust, and educated their sons in latin and greek so they would be socially acceptable. This attitude is still at large in our own times, as witness the politician Gove whose 'English Baccalaureate' has done more to to destroy creative education than anything else in the last couple of generations, though goodness knows the other politicians have tried.

The engineering professions have bleated all my life, and all my late father's, about lack of status but have never done anything serious about it, with the result that (to give but one example) the girl who came to wire in my cable TV installation is described as an engineer. I might add that I was delighted to see a female technician, and told her so.

I don't expect to see a change any time soon.

George B, MIET etc.

Neil Wyatt10/01/2020 13:03:44
avatar
Moderator
17712 forum posts
697 photos
77 articles

If you think it's tough on engineers, try being a Chartered Environmentalist - hands up if you think that means qualified to chain oneself to a tree...

Neil

Hopper10/01/2020 13:52:09
avatar
4389 forum posts
92 photos

I thought they used super glue instead of chains these days?

Likewise being a Building Maintenance Engineer. They think you are the janitor and ask you to mop up the toilets. Meanwhile you are operating a multi-million dollar computerised heating and air-con system that is keeping them alive when it's 40-below zero outside, (Montana, USA, in winter.) while showing the surgeons how to turn the knob on the operating theatre wall thermostat to get their desired temperature.

Brian Sweeting10/01/2020 15:01:58
413 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by Hopper on 10/01/2020 13:52:09:

I thought they used super glue instead of chains these days?

Likewise being a Building Maintenance Engineer. They think you are the janitor and ask you to mop up the toilets. Meanwhile you are operating a multi-million dollar computerised heating and air-con system that is keeping them alive when it's 40-below zero outside, (Montana, USA, in winter.) while showing the surgeons how to turn the knob on the operating theatre wall thermostat to get their desired temperature.

Been there, done that. Here in the UK I ended up calling myself a Technician as I didn't have any qualifications just experience but I did know some engineers.

Bazyle10/01/2020 16:38:23
avatar
5132 forum posts
199 photos

" the girl who came to wire in my cable TV installation is described as an engineer. I might add that I was delighted to see a female technician "
You were correct the second time. We call them 'Techs'. Only Techs are allowed to do certain things so I have a Tech ID although I am an Engineer. However I prefer to call myself a Scientist outside work as I have a science degree and that gets a tad more respect because people think of the white coats and test tubes they see in films.

When I started work that employer had a Professional Engineer grading system for graduates and a separate E scale for HNC, HND and trades, and an M scale for managers. Dress was casual so if anyone came in in a suit it was assumed they were going to a promotion board, or an external job interview in the lunch break. When we recruited a chap with 3 years experience in the old GPO he came in wearing a suit and told us that their Professional grades were all required to be suited whether up a tower or down a manhole to maintain their status.
When I moved company we all wore suits in the deskbound jobs. Then we amalgamated with another company who did 'dress down Friday' and eventually one Friday shock horror I took off my tie and haven't worn it since. Now we are so casual some people wear shorts in the office in summer but to me that is a step too far.

"Please don't lets get started on this hoary old chestnut yet again" Your TV has an off switch. If you don't like the program you are not force to watch it.

old mart10/01/2020 16:42:43
1519 forum posts
136 photos

In my book, an engineer is someone who has completed at least to university degree level.

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Support Our Partners
cowells
ChesterUK
Allendale Electronics
Ausee.com.au
Warco
Eccentric July 5 2018
emcomachinetools
Eccentric Engineering
Subscription Offer

Latest "For Sale" Ads
Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest