What’s in a name?

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life so far – and some of them have been polite. On the sportsfield as a rugby player I was a forward -also known as a “grunt”, a donkey or a piano-shifter. (we also got called the “real men” or the “grafters” but mainly by other forwards!), In comparison the backs, whose silky smooth running skills, got them named the “girls”, the “fairies” and the piano-players. Rather an arbitrary separation (and somewhat politically incorrect) as I was known to out step backs and outrun them sometimes and I’ve met a few of the “girls” who could knock me flying. (I will admit that sometimes my “dummy and step” was offered as an excuse to smaller players for them to avoid suffering the impact of what is now known as a “Samoan Sidestep”- I suspect a lot of them could still have made a tackle if they really wanted to….)

I’m also an engineer – a Chartered Engineer and I have certificates from the Engineering Council, The Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers and the Energy Institute to prove it. The trouble is that the public don’t understand the difference between a qualified “Engineer” and those who gets their hands dirty working for them (although most of us who hold C.Eng (T.Eng or I.Eng) will wade in when needed). As a Gas Engineer I get asked to look at people’s boilers. Explaining that I can’t legally work directly on someone else’s appliance (even though I tutored CORGI inspectors) because I don’t hold a “Gas Safe” registration and the relevant City & Guilds qualifications, usually causes consternation.

That reminds me of one time that I applied my practical experience of the installation, maintenance and repair of commercial appliances. My employers had an FM contract for a supermarket group and one of the buildings, heated by a warm air system, was experiencing repeated breakdowns that no-one seemed able to solve. I took along a service engineer to do the work while I observed and advised. Well the inevitable happened and I’m up to my armpits in the heater when he asked “Why do you need me?” my reply was that, apart from his tools I needed his CORGI registration.

What could I do when he replied that he didn’t have one, bearing in mind that the heater was now in bits? Interestingly my title at that time was Business Development Manager -not really fitting the circumstance.

One thing that I know annoys qualified engineers is the inability of the press to understand the difference between Professional Engineers and manual and semi-skilled workers in engineering operations. Headline like “Engineers get pay rise” when they really mean Engineering WORKERS may help explain the low standing of the Engineering Profession in the UK in comparison to, for example, Germany.

I’m also an Energy Manager (I actually don’t have a certificate for that but I do have one as a Chartered Energy Engineer and I’m a Fellow of the Energy Manager’s Association so I think I can claim that) and that title is widely abused as well. I believe an Energy Manager should be someone who has the technical understanding of how energy is consumed, how to measure it and to identify and implement measures to control wastage (and hopefully get the opportunity to MANAGE Energy!).

Others however seem to differ. One company I worked for (for a mercifully short period) advertises regularly for “Energy Managers” (their turnover is very high) when the post is actually outgoing telesales (at least they’re trying to sell energy brokerage services) and most of them wouldn’t know a Therm from a Kilowatt so I can’t really accept that they qualify for the title! (I actually experienced that confusion when selling gas for a living. I was told by a consultant that the keen price I’d tendered was “well out of the ballpark” because a competitor had offered a MUCH lower price. Analysing the price, I was able to tell the consultant that he should “take their hand off” because the charge was less than the transportation costs to the site so they were actually selling for a negative return. The consultant came back to me a couple of days later because the competitor had withdrawn their offer – they’d read the kWh figure as therms increasing the load by almost 30 times!)

Another previous employer has someone with the title “Energy Manager” who has no technical ability at all but he can analyse consumption patterns to a high level. Trouble is without understanding how the energy is being used and what could be causing the anomalies he identifies, there is no benefit to the end user as no changes get made to improve efficiency!
I’ve also heard of “Energy Managers” who I’d classify better as “Energy Champions” or “Energy Wardens” (– not that I don’t have the greatest of respect for those people who take on the role of seeking out opportunities in their own locale, some I’ve known have been very capable indeed- ) with little more capability or responsibility than being a modern day Warden Hodges yelling “Turn that Light Out!”. That is not really an Energy Manager.

I do however also have the greatest respect for those who do not have the title “Energy Manager” (or even “Environmental, Sustainability, Resource or Efficiency” Manager) but actually take proactive steps using their skills and abilities to reduce energy wastage and consumption.

Can I suggest that to be an effective controller (and hopefully reducer) of energy requires a strange mix of technical ability, analytical skill, diplomacy, management and sales/marketing talent? The test I would always offer is “Can this person reduce my energy consumption?” Does he or she understand how to do that?

I think having an appropriate qualification (like Membership of the Energy Institute, Chartered Energy Engineer, Chartered Energy Manager or Certified Energy Manager or Membership of the EMA) along with relevant experience, provides confidence and assurance of quality.

Perhaps we should define minimum standards for professions – Oh they do! So maybe it should be an offence to use a professional title if you don’t have the qualification – I’m an unqualified solicitor….

Andy Clarke CEng MIGEM MEI FEMA Chartered Energy Engineer 2nd Row Camp Hill RFC ret’d