Letters to the editor: volume 17, issue 9
Image credit: Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash
In the October 2022 issue of E&T, readers discuss the challenge of switching sectors mid-career, confusion about standards, practical ways of cutting energy bills and more.
How do you upskill without experience?
I’m currently a technician working in the food and packaging industry, but also have experience in the variable-speed and HVAC sector. I gained my engineering degree in 2016 with a view to moving into nuclear. Sizewell is close to where I live, and this seemed an ideal location to further my professional career.
This is proving a difficult challenge. I recently had an interview with them for an engineering position and was turned down on one particular sticking point – I don’t have any nuclear experience. It seems that apprentices are accepted, as they will go through the company’s set training. It also seems that young graduates can gain entry too, seemingly as they have a longer working life ahead of them.
I’m 49 years young, with a significant amount of work ahead of me, and I’m doing my best to break through what seems like a glass ceiling. So it’s Catch-22 for me. No nuclear experience, but I can’t gain the experience if I’m not in nuclear.
I constantly hear that we need people who have a background in engineering and wish to upskill and improve, but it looks like nuclear seems locked off due to limited avenues.
I’ve asked several times about what I can do to attain a position, with regard to courses etc, but all the response I get is the standard “keep looking at the careers page”.
Information about the new-build coming up lists apprenticeships, and opportunities for young graduates and people already working in the sector. I feel they are missing out on what could be a wealth of experience from people who don’t fit in their current remit. Frustrating.
Ian Ansdell MIET
New era for UK standards lacks clarity
I’ve been reviewing the list of UK-designated standards published by the government that provides details of which to use for certifying that products meet the requirements specified in the UKCA regulations.
In the past, products placed on the UK market had to be certified as meeting CE marking requirements; now they must meet UKCA requirements. CE marking requirements are specified in EU directives, UKCA marking requirements are specified in GB regulations (UKCA only covers Great Britain, not Northern Ireland.)
To demonstrate compliance with EU directives, manufacturers design their products to meet European standards. The EU maintains a list of recognised (harmonised) standards in its Official Journal, and there is a review process to ensure that the European standards listed do in fact align with the various EU directives. Every harmonised European standard contains an annex detailing the directives and their clauses that it covers.
European standards are, and always have been, adopted by British standards but the British version may contain a foreword that details any special requirements for the UK market. European standards EN xxxxx become British standards BS EN xxxxx.
Looking at the list of designated standards published by the UK government, which is the UK equivalent of the EU’s Official Journal, every standard listed is not the British version BS EN xxxxx, but the European version EN xxxxx. This means that a manufacturer who already has a CE-marked product and now requires a UKCA certificate to place that product on the GB market is advised by the UK government to use exactly the same European standards as they used for the CE marking. Those standards contain the annex that states how the product complies with EU directives but nothing about any UK special requirements.
From January 2023, manufacturers must comply with UKCA regulations and use exactly the same standards as they used for CE directives to have their products re-certified for Great Britain, but those standards do not contain any of the special requirements for the GB market.
Rather than taking back control of the standards covering products placed on the GB market, the government is telling manufacturers to use European standards that only contain references to EU directives but no references to UK regulations, a situation that can only be described as bizarre.
John Cowburn CEng FIET
Tap nature to cut costs
Approaching my 90th birthday, I think now more than ever in my life I am glad to have had an engineering background. With the current situation regarding the increasing cost of gas, electricity and even water, my experience and knowledge has saved me probably tens of thousands over my lifetime. Wartime experiences including being evacuated seven times and the adages ‘Waste not want not’, ‘Make do and mend’ etc have shown me that one can save quite a bit by a little thought.
Even if you aren’t able to have solar panels on your roof, one can save quite a bit on electricity by having a portable set-up made up of a 12V solar panel, a car battery and some simple wiring placed in ideally a south- or west-facing window or even on a small trolley in the garden that can be easily brought in and can operate several LED light bulbs. Using a 12V to 240V inverter one can listen to the radio or even watch a normal-sized TV. All this for less than about £50 set-up costs.
I have been experimenting with renewable energy ideas for the past 50-odd years and it is surprising what can be done quite simply and cheaply. Nature supplies – just tap into it.
Martin Griffiths MIET
Can we capture carbon from boilers?
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is critical, but the UK government’s solution of using air-source heat pumps, while satisfactory for some situations, has serious deficiencies for many others.
Is it not possible to fit some sort of filter or cleaning process to the exhaust flue of a domestic gas boiler to capture the CO2? I understand that an activated carbon filter will not do the job, and processes to remove CO2 often use heat and hence are complicated and expensive. Furthermore, filters can cause back pressure, thus requiring a small electric motor to maintain effective combustion efficiency. Obviously, the filter equipment would need to be reasonably compact and inexpensive and ideally capable of being fitted to existing and new boilers.
Chris Rothwell CEng
Where are letters from women?
I’m 17 years old, want to be an engineer, and was recently gifted four years of back copies of E&T magazine. I am loving it. I’ve started breaking into this stack of magazines by selecting the issues with articles on gender equality as I am currently writing a 5,000-word essay on gender equality in science education. I have been delighted to see a wealth of such articles across your publications. However, it upsets me that even in gender and diversity specials all of the letters section consists of commentary sent in by men. Do no women have anything to add to the conversation? I find this hard to believe.
I wanted to mention this to encourage you as a publication to broaden your audience to directly target, in particular, young women. What are you doing to stop this inequality and make your magazine more accessible and inspiring to women?
[We receive a lot of letters from readers, who are mostly IET members, but it would be great to hear opinions from a wider range of contributors who have something interesting to say about engineering and technology. Anything sent to email@example.com will be considered for publication. Ed]
Stop whining and examine spending
E&T has reported recently on how road-use charges, in various guises, are proposed to raise revenue from electric vehicles to replace the anticipated shortfall in fuel tax. These are not private roads, but ones that were built and paid for with public funds.
Let me give you an analogy. You have a shed at the bottom of your garden, and need a path to it. You engage a contractor, agree a price, and pay him all his expenses and a fair profit to build a path for you. A few years later the contractor returns and says that from now on every time you use the path, he will now collect a fee from you. Does this seem fair?
As engineers we are taught that a budget over-run should be addressed not only by going back to the client and asking for more money but also by re-examining expenses and making cuts – the latter being generally preferred. In this financially challenging era is it not time that instead of whining about shortfalls the government started a critical examination of its expenses?
Caron R Williams CEng MIET
Getting electricity from roof to car
We recently purchased an EV and also have 9kW of solar panels. We didn’t have an EV charging point when we bought the car, so bought a cable with a three-pin plug as an interim measure. However, as the charge rate using this cable is less than the array can produce, we have decided that this is the ideal way to charge the car for the limited range of trips we make.
When we asked an electrician to install a standard socket outside the house, to be used mainly for charging the car, he said it couldn’t be done and mentioned something about problems with the direct current.
Recent articles in E&T make me wonder whether the difficulty is rather more to do with being able to tax the use of electricity for vehicles than technology.
I don’t want to dodge paying taxes, but to me, using the electricity straight off our solar panels is the most efficient use of energy. Also, we are being paid very little for the electricity we are exporting. I am sure that our position is not unique and I believe that rather more thought will be needed on how to replace the fuel duty than the approach that is currently being proposed.
Ros Eveleigh CEng MIET
In October 2021, you published my letter about my suggestion to a coffee supplier about reducing pollution and saving money by simply not manufacturing a purely decorative plastic attachment to the lid on their square coffee jars.
They have now changed the design. The new jars are cylindrical with a round glass lid and a minimal amount of plastic to provide a seal, and look as if they are intended to be used for storage after the coffee has been used. The only thing is, the old jars held 165g of coffee, the new 150g. The price of course remains the same. Be careful what you wish for!
Denis Sharp CEng MIET
Don’t presume all fatbergs (‘How to vanquish the fatberg menace’, July 2022) are from pouring cooking oil down the drain. While examining the workings of my dishwasher, I noticed the ‘eco’ programme starts with a cold rinse then drain.
The manual does instruct that a portion of detergent powder is added to two sections of the dispenser. However, lazy tablet culture favours dosing the main wash compartment alone. Who would think of chopping these tablets/pouches in two, and who reads manuals these days? There’s merit in old-fashioned dishwasher powder and well-informed humans.
Thomas King MIET
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