That's the question - In a recent article published by The Times, Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon vehemently discusses the loss of the word 'engineer' and its true essence. She explains, "people need to realise what engineers actually do, which is solving problems with their creativity, ingenuity and innovation."
She goes on to express, "We already lost to people who fix TVs, washing machines, cars, the boiler, important jobs but not engineering jobs ." Whether you agree or not with the statement at this point, undeniably it sparks a very interesting conversation, let’s dive deeper.
Who is Elena Rodriguez-Falcon?
Grew up in the Northeastern part of Mexico, in the industrial city of Monterrery. Where she says she had no role models, "I was the first person to go to university in my family. It is nearly 25 years since I came to the UK and throughout this time I have tirelessly tried, like many others, to change perceptions of engineering, to inspire young people to consider the opportunities of such an amazing discipline, to attract more women to the profession. All, to little, or no avail."
The change of name
Now President and CEO New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE), explains, "you see, engineer in Spanish is ‘ingeniero’, in German is ingenieur, in French is ingénieur, in Norway is ingeniør, you get my point? All of these words come from the word ‘ingenious’ or ‘ingenuity’. They even sound as such."
She goes on to say, "We do not have time anymore. Climate change is destroying the world, pandemics will be not one in a century occurrence anymore, poverty and hunger will only increase, and these are only the things we know now. We cannot afford beating around the bushes with report after report anymore, spending money for very little or no change in return. We need this country to wake up to what engineers actually do, which is solving those very problems with their creativity, ingenuity and innovation, so that every child in the country aspires to be one of them."
She has since challenged the United Kingdom and all the Professional Engineering Bodies to change the name of the profession. So, what is she proposing? "My answer is that we go back to the beginning, to where it all began. Engineer comes from the Latin word ‘Ingeniator’, derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to create, generate, contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).
What makes up an 'Ingeniator' ?
Ingeniator, a change-maker individual who uses their ingenuity to create ideas, to generate answers, to contrive solutions, to devise artefacts, products, processes and systems that can help us all in our pursuit to get this world back on track. The discipline Ingineering ~ Elana Rodriguez-Falcon
Catriona Schmolke, FREng Vice- president, Royal Academy of Engineering, would however, disagree that changing the name of this profession is not the answer. Here's what she had to say, "we must tell the story of what we do and show how engineers shape the world.'' She explains that this is why they launched a campaign in 2018 'This is Engineering' to inspire young people to shape the future. From movie makers to robot builders, and from flood fighters to code creators. "Our real-life engineering heroes reveal how they followed their passions into a rewarding career. This includes engineering technicians, the fabricators, the fixers whose skills are vital to the success of our profession."
With 54 million views across social media, these impactful films have increased teenagers' likelihood of considering engineering as a career by 85 percent. Impressive!
This being said, The Times rightly touches on Elenor stressing the point that engineering is not just about engines, and wants to clear away any potential misunderstandings among budding entrants to the profession. Even if her etymological ingenuity fails to catch on, her point about engineering is vital.
The writer also mentions, the notion that words determine how we perceive the world is a durable popular belief. Linguists refer to it as the Whorf Hypothesis, though few give it credence.
Has this left you with a few thoughts, questions or strong opinions?
Is engineering given an undeservedly low status?
Is it time to change the name of the engineering profession?
By doing so will this help enhance its attractiveness?