CGCA

» Issue 29: Spring 2001

Career planning on-line

Warwick Faville (Mech 1962) introduces a new Internet initiative for engineers

Do engineers plan their careers? Our training is such that one would imagine the answer should be yes, but it seems unlikely. The average person probably has ten jobs during their career. Some will be with the same organisation, but it is now rare to meet someone who has not moved employment to a new organisation at some time. When at college I had a lecturer who presented a theory that the optimum time to move on was 10 to 15 percent of one's age. Five jobs back I was contemplating the greasy pole to the corporate heights, without having any conception that twenty plus years on I would be having a great time working for myself and with a network of colleagues. The job for life is no more and we are all probably better off for that.

So how does one progress in ones career? The components in the building of a career include one's skills, knowledge, ability, aptitude, qualifications and a number of other factors. Luck and knowing the right people are also important ingredients. And being a member of the COCA is a real boon. However, pro-actively managing one's career and watching the jobs market are the real keys.

On-line job sites are commercial entities

Now with the Internet there is a change in jobs marketing. The plethora of on-line web sites related to jobs and careers have had much press attention. Some seem to have a lot of good stuff while others are perhaps unscrupulous. However, the one thing they have in common is that they are commercial entities. They exist not for your benefit, but to make a profit. Even the engineering institutions with jobs information on their sites need to turn in figures in the black and serve members.

Is there scope for a new style of web site that is truly altruistic with an aim of promoting the more effective management of the careers of engineers? I believe there is, but the precise model is not straightforward. The illustration shows the home page of www.engineers.org.uk. By chance I came across this desirable domain name and bought it. It seemed too good to leave on the shelf.

Since then I have offered it to the Engineering Council and EMTA without an exorbitant price tag. I have had some interest, but no firm offers. I have also suggested projects based on the URL. But the problem is the cost. The use of the Internet has been clouded by the dot com bubble. I have been working on this project for some time now, when I have time available between jobs for clients. It would seem that the time is at last right for a full launch, in part because the Engineering Council is having a review at the behest of Lord Sainsbury. Much of the output of the Hawley Report of December 2000 called for better CPD delivery and more web presence.

The home page of www.engineers.org.uk

A stepping stone site

www.engineers.org.uk has involved a number of colleagues, but we all face the problem of limited time and money. There is little point in launching a web site without the ability to support it. The existing site shows some of the possibilities and receives of the order of 1,500 page views per month, but I would be totally overloaded if even a small proportion of the engineers seeking information at any time made contact with me. There are just under 300,000 engineers registered with the Engineering Council and there are thought to be 600,000 who may be eligible for registration. Of the order of 10% may be looking at the job market at anyone time. The proposal is for what I call a stepping stone site -the majority of the site would try to point quickly to sources of information already available on the Internet. For example, who has visited Wolverhampton College's site showing universities in the UK?

There would then be an area of the site that would contain advice and articles from respected individuals giving guidance on how to keep your career on track. There are models for such information. The Institute of Physics has some excellent publications, but these are promoted only to their members.

Establishing a business model

The problem we face is to establish the business model. Ideally an .org.uk site is a not for profit. Thus it should be constituted as a charity and it should follow the requirements of the Charity Commission. If it were to be of any size it would ideally be a company limited by guarantee. The company exists and is waiting for use. There is also a bank account. But charity laws are rightly strict -the people holding the purse strings cannot earn money from the company, they can only recover expenses.

Thus a team is needed. While it may be possible to get the project off the ground for less than 50,000, it would take more resources than have come to hand. Raising the required funds is a soluble challenge. The single issue pressure group opposing the proposed tax known as IR35 achieved a membership of over 10,000 in quite a short time. The membership was 100, so presumably they raised a million. It proved a very effective fighting fund.

Where next? Work on strengthening the project team and revising the business plan are in hand. Any suggestions would be welcome. Visit the site and send me an Email.. .no a cheque would be better.

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