You’ve already got invaluable vocational experience and certificates under your belt, so why should you take another test to prove how professional you are?
For starters, given the current economic downturn you cannot predict the longevity of a particular job so the more equipped you are the better. The changing economic and technological landscape has also upped the ante on the requirements for technical skills not just in engineering and science, but now increasingly in media and publishing, service industries, public administration and defence. To the extent that, according to professional-technician.org.uk, “the demand for professional technicians or equivalent skilled jobs is estimated at 450,000 opportunities in the UK by 2020.”
Maximise your marketability
Professional registration shows employers that you have the potential to fill roles that require very high levels of skill and professionalism. In addition to maximising your marketability it can also greatly improve the salary you command - it’s a fact that professionally registered technicians enjoy significantly higher median wages than those that aren’t.
Aside from looking impressive on paper, acquiring letters after your name also shows that your competence has been independently assessed and is also recognised internationally. For example, EngTech and ICTTech standards are both listed in the European Directive 2005/36/EC for the recognition of regulated professions.
Be recognised internationally
Translated this means that as a registered professional you can work in any EU member state without having to apply for recognition of your qualifications.
Registering is also a necessary requirement in setting up your own company or consultancy. With the emphasis now increasingly focused on entrepreneurship, demonstrating to peers and potential clients your absolute commitment to professional standards is a key factor for a successful enterprise.
Are you aware of what professional registration entails?
But despite the seemingly obvious benefits of registering there are still a great number of people who haven’t.
One reason for the sluggish uptake is general unawareness of the tech-specific categories available and what registering actually entails.
“Traditionally professional development and registration has been associated predominantly with engineering as opposed to IT and comms,” explains Jane Black, ICTTech product manager at the IET. “And while the EngTech standard has been in existence for around 15-20 years ICTTech was only introduced in 2009, so it’s lesser known to technicians and the industry itself which is something we’re working to change.”
There are now four professional registration categories that an engineer or technician can apply for: Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), Engineering Technician (EngTech), and Information and Communications Technology Technician (ICTTech).
Are you EngTech material?
EngTechs are generally professionals with supervisory responsibility, who contribute to the design, development, manufacture, commissioning of products, equipment, processes or services. The EngTech professional qualification is open to anyone who can show the required professional competences – and commitment. So if you’ve completed an advanced/modern apprenticeship, or if you have other appropriate work experience and hold, say, an Edexcel BTEC Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in engineering you’re good to go.
Or possibly ICTTech?
ICT Technicians are employed in a range of jobs that involve supporting or facilitating the use of ICT equipment and applications. For example: ICT hardware, software or system installation and operation, incident/change/problem management, security, fault diagnosis and fixing. If you’ve completed an ICT advanced apprenticeship or other ICT practitioner qualification at Level 3 and have relevant work experience you would be considered competent enough to apply.
You don’t need “an arsenal of qualifications” to apply
Even if you don’t have any formal qualifications you can still apply.
“What we’re trying to get across to people is that EngTech and ICTTech are largely competence-based as opposed to requiring an arsenal of qualifications,” says Black. “If you can demonstrate that you are competent and have the required responsibility levels via substantial work experience then you are free to apply.”
The first step to applying is to join a professional institution that is licensed by the Engineering Council to award the categories of registration. There are now 36 such institutions in the UK representing trades right across the board from the Royal Aeronautical Society to the Institute of Highway Engineers to The Welding Institute. Of these 36, only the IET is currently licensed to award all four categories.
The next stage is to look at the competence requirements for each category.
“If you’re not sure which to apply for the best bet is to do a self-assessment of work experience and role of responsibility to ascertain how that maps across to the competence requirements,” says Allison Riley, the IET's EngTech project manager.
“Alternatively you can work with a professional registration advisor (PRA) to help identify which category would best suit. Once that’s clarified it’s a matter of downloading a registration pack.”
Professional registration – the application process
When drafting an application it’s a good idea to engage the help of a PRA who can review it and make modifications. When the PRA considers the application ready the forms should be submitted with as much supporting evidence as possible – copies of certificates, educational qualifications, training courses you’ve been on and so forth.
Once the paperwork has been processed your institution will notify you of the result and in turn inform the Engineering Council of your details to be added to its register of 235,000 professional engineers and technicians.
But what happens if your application is unsuccessful? Thankfully, declines are relatively rare – for example, in the last year the IET has only declined three. But should that occur the institutions won’t leave you high and dry.
“If an applicant doesn’t meet the requirements we will work with them to find an alternative standard,” Riley says. “But if it’s an outright decline they’ll receive a personal letter explaining the reasons. The individual also has the right to appeal if they’re not happy with the overall response.”
There is also nothing to stop you from reapplying further down the line. In that event the IET advises that applicants work with a PRA or an IET mentor to fill in the gaps.
Not quite ready yet?
The IET also has another option on its books. Say your goal is to work towards professional registration but you’re not ready to submit an application for another year or so you can register for its ‘initial professional development service’. This is basically a learning period for members who wish to use the IET as a guideline to aid their training in developing skills and knowledge required for professional registration.
To register as a professional you will have to cough up some cash, the amount of which varies depending on the category for which you’re applying. However it’s not a huge sum – an EngTech via the IET for example costs around £200 including institution membership, one-off application and Engineering Council fee. And to maintain your professional registration you’ll also have to keep up your institution’s annual membership.
But this is a small price to pay for what is essentially a major milestone in your career. One which will afford you many opportunities and as Allison Riley points out “is about being recognised for the work you do, and that you have developed your skills and knowledge to provide an exceptionally professional service to the community.”