Growing the next generation of electrotechnical experts
e-tech: Could you tell us why BEC set up this programme?
Danvers: In common with many countries, the age profile of experts on UK committees is becoming noticeably higher, and it is imperative that we attract younger generations to participate in our work. This is not solely for the benefit of the overall standardization system, important though that is; we believe that it good for individual companies to have standardization expertise available in house, and also, of course, for the career development and personal visibility of the individuals concerned.
For this reason, the programme is sponsored by the IET, the UK’s principal professional body in the electrotechnical sphere, by two prominent trade associations as well as by BSI.
A collateral benefit is that the programme provides a stimulus and focal point for raising awareness of standardization amongst a wide population of UK engineers and their employers. Not all of them might be able to respond immediately, but we believe that it gives us yet another way to spread a message that standardization is important and worth investing in.
Finally, there is, or should be, a benefit for the IEC community in having a large and visible presence of relatively young blood during its General Meeting week. Perhaps more attention could be given in the planning of these events to harnessing the energies and insights that this group can bring to our annual party.
e-tech: Martin, can you please tell us about how and when the Young Professionals Programme in the UK was set up?
Danvers: The programme was established in 2011 to coincide with the IEC General Meeting. Planning commenced in late 2010.
Rich and varied programme
e-tech: What does the YP programme in the UK consist of?
Danvers: The programme consists of a one-day workshop which is open to anyone with a plausible interest in participating in electrotechnical standardization. There are no formal age or qualification restrictions, reflecting the fact that relevant
expertise, commitment and enthusiasm are important qualities currently in short supply. However most of those attending are under 35, and are probably attracted by the prospect of nomination to participate in the annual IEC Young Professionals Workshop.
The day comprises presentations on various topics of immediate relevance, such as the IEC, career case studies, standardization and certification. There are also exercise sessions where participants attend mock committee meetings and discuss topical subjects like smart cities, electric vehicles and robotics.
Reaching a wide group
e-tech: How have you attracted participants to the programme? What professional areas have they come from?
Danvers: The first event attracted about 35 participants. The 2014 event is due to take place on 1 April and currently we are expecting about 40 participants. They variously responded to notices in professional journals and trade association literature, both on-line and in print. Participants have been drawn from all parts of the very wide territory of electrotechnical standardization. There has been an inevitable tendency for large employers to be represented strongly, particularly the electricity supply industry.
Challenge of keeping engaged
e-tech: What kind of feedback have participants given?
Danvers: Generally feedback has been very positive, although it has been difficult to maintain the initial enthusiasm and commitment. We have lost touch with many of the early participants (including some of the IEC scheme participants). This is a feature of the scheme that needs attention in the future.
However, we are hopeful that the early exposure to standardization will bring long term intangible benefits in terms of awareness and an initial experience that will lead to future engagement at later career stages.
Participation in standardization work
e-tech: What have been the highlights?
Danvers: A few early participants have maintained contact and involvement, including drafting a guide to standardization for young professionals. Last year, for the first time, all participants were offered trial membership of UK standards committees, with the possibility of participation in IEC WGs (Working Groups). This was an opportunity that was enthusiastically taken up by a small but significant number of them.
e-tech: What is being planned in the future?
Danvers: In the future, we are hoping to make more effective use of some participants as industry and higher education ambassadors. However, the coordination and monitoring of this type of programme requires significant resources.
A word of advice
e-tech: Do you have any suggestions for other countries who would like to set up a similar programme?
Danvers: Early planning is essential. Twelve months is not too long, and we now operate on a continuous cycle of experience and feedback leading directly into planning. High-level contact with industry is both very desirable and the biggest challenge to achieve.
Call for more industry support
e-tech: Is there any other interesting information you'd like to share?
Danvers: This is a fairly resource-intensive initiative and our future commitment to it will depend on the success of the next event. It has proved difficult to raise industry sponsorship for a third participant in the IEC programme. Industry commitment to electrotechnical standardization seems to be increasingly contingent on immediate ‘bottom line’ factors. Also some participants have noted reluctance on the part of their employers to offer adequate support, for example, in terms of time or expenses.
In their own words…
e-tech also spoke to Stephen Rolph and Peter Ridge who helped to establish the UK national Young Professionals programme.
“As an IEC Young Professional in 2010, I gained an awareness of how standards impact the world around us and the process of standards generation. The UK events have added a more focussed, UK perspective. Both have given a sense of context to conformity assessment work I carry out on my company’s products.
“As a member of the committee organizing the UK programme, I have met several senior figures within the UK standards community, which is a great networking opportunity.”
Stephen Rolph, Junior Engineer, Servomex Technical Centre, Crowborough, East Sussex,UK
“As someone who has always been a proactive knowledge-sharer, I have always been involved in producing company standards which has led to, amongst many other things, improving design efficiencies and technical-excellence. Participation in the IEC Young Professionals programme has provided me with an invaluable insight into how the world of standardisation works and opened the door to becoming involved at a national level.
"My involvement in standards has helped developed my career and by continuing my involvement in standards I hope to influence standards in the future. It’s time for the next generation of standards makers to step-up to the plate and I would urge any young engineer’s interest in standards to get involved with the IEC Young Professional Programme is the ideal place to start.”
Peter Ridge, Environmental Engineering Associate, BDP (Building Design Partnership), Manchester, UK
About the BEC International Standards Professionals’ Workshop
This workshop, held on 1 April 2014, was aimed at International Standards professionals involved in electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment work. It was organised by BEC (The British Electrotechnical Committee), the National Committee responsible for representing the interests of the UK electrotechnical sector in these areas, in association with IEC and BSI (British Standards Institution). It was sponsored by BEAMA (British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers Association), GAMBICA, the national organization representing the interests of companies in the instrumentation, control, automation and laboratory technology industry in the UK, and the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). Workshop participants were able to learn more of the BEC’s work and discover standardization strategies to help support their national, regional and international involvement.
Two participants from the workshop will be selected to be UK representatives at the IEC Young Professionals’ Programme in Tokyo, in November 2014, with all their expenses paid