Thursday, 20 August 2009

Titles and Outrage

As usual with all my rants, this story begins on a car journey to work.

Listening to Radio 1, the dj had a caller on line who said he was an engineer and on further questioning on what he did, he said that he unclogged toilet pipes.

I'm not sure if I need to write any more to show how incensed we were (bear in mind that our car had two engineers and a manager who was a software engineer).

Granted, if he designed the pipes then it requires a modicum of engineering ability but to merely flush out pipes and call himself an engineer?! The UK is a sad place for real engineers as the status has been dragged through the dirt... literally with the cases of civic amenities engineers, or bin-men as you and I would call them, whereas being a doctor or a lawyer is a preserved title for the deserving.

Have you ever called BT to have your phone line fixed and been told that they will despatch an engineer?
Have you been to a car garage and seen themselves being advertised as auto-engineers?
Or maybe rang up an 'electrical engineer' to wire your house alarm?

Our culture has come to such a state that work that is not popularised by the media need to become tarted-up so the pimple-faced boy in Subway now has the title of a 'sandwich artist' and a 'custodian engineer' for a janitor.
Over into mainland Europe, engineers enjoy an acknowledged status and isn't used by every Tom, Dick or Harry in an attempt to boost their ego's from their manual jobs. It's disappointing going to a bank and when asked for profession, you get bundled with mechanic whereas teachers, lawyers, doctors all enjoy their own division.

I think it's important to realise the distinction between an engineer and all the above mentioned (and more) pretenders. Engineers are those who understand the theory and science of objects in their field.
For example an automotive engineer will know how the driveline system works, the different components and how components such as a torque convertor works and what difference changing the oil or temperature in it will do and why... but not necessarily need to know how everything is physically put together. Now the local 'auto-engineer' garage will very likely not know any of this except the building of the system, how to change parts etc. - they are mechanics.
Similarly in a science or non mechanical field, you will have the scientist and then the technician.

So when I need my phoneline fixed, I want a technician to come around and fix it, not an engineer to analyse and deliver a communications system.
When I take my car to have it's MOT done, I want a mechanic to have a look at everything rather than an engineer modelling the car and giving me an optimum gear-map.
When I want someone to press some buttons on a manufacturing line, I want a shop floor worker rather than an 'assistant production engineer'!
And when I want my road cleaned, I would want a sweeper rather than a 'throughfare hygiene engineer'!

If you ever come across these pretenders, please kindly give them my utmost outrage and tell them to stop demeaning us real engineers.

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