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Hoops spring eternal

Christopher Jack

Christopher Jack wonders whether we really need a UK Register of Ground Engineering Professionals

“Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, set each with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.”

Horace Mann 1796-1859

Geoscientist 20.6 June 2010

Ivan Hodgson, Chair of the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, urges UK ground engineering professionals to inscribe their names upon a new official professional register (Geoscientist 20.4 April 2010, p24). The issue is important - the roles defined in it may soon be included in the revised Site Investigation Steering Group specification, and that might effectively make the register compulsory.

Proponents of the Register say: “We don’t know which UK Chartered Engineers and Geologists are ground engineers”. Do we need a register to do this? These individuals and their employers surely know who they are. “If we don’t have a register, an EU Directive will force something worse upon us” advise others, recalling Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary verse. But surely, an EU Directive only says what a member state has to achieve, not how it should do it. So, our implementation could potentially be: ‘Geotechnical designs must be signed off by a Chartered Engineer or Chartered Geologist competent and experienced in the field of geotechnics.’ Or is this too simple?

Some say: “We need it so that clients can be confident the ground engineer is competent”. Is this not perhaps a solution looking for a problem? Clients can already employ reputable engineering firms to provide competent experts. Then there

“We need to raise the profile of ground engineering, encourage training and promote best practice.” Wouldn’t it be better to focus on improving the Chartered Geologist (CGeol) application process and the Engineering Geologist Training Guide?

“We need the register to provide a post-chartership career path.” But is anyone really asking for this? Are there not enough hoops to jump through already?

Would a register really be worthwhile? The register requires applications similar to those for CGeol. Those who have applied for chartership know the effort this involves. We will also be taking up the time of another raft of sponsors, assessors, and administrators. Wouldn’t we all be a lot more competent if we actually did some work? We must also remember that these onerous requirements will place a disproportionate burden on smaller companies, while larger organisations will reap the protectionist benefits.

Each application will cost £75 with a £12 annual subscription charge. Assuming it takes twelve years to progress from Professional to Advisor, this will cost £369 in addition to Geological Society fees. Money well spent?

Why isn’t a combination of CGeol, a CV and my employer’s opinion good enough? Remember, all Fellows are also bound by the Society’s Code of Conduct. Let’s place trust in our integrity. We are already drowning in CPD records and competency evidence. Do we need this as well? I don’t think so. I feel it is being foisted on an unconvinced profession without proper consultation.
  • If you agree, sign the petition at before it is too late!