IChemE Matters: Elevating Member Engagement – the Next Level

Article by Andrea Hosey CEng FIChemE

Andrea Hosey reflects on the achievements of the inaugural Member Engagement Committee and highlights what’s next to support IChemE’s ambitions for sustainable member growth and engagement

ICHEME is its members. When the role of vice-president member engagement was created in 2021, our membership numbers were declining, particularly among students, and we were challenged by a global pandemic as well as huge technological and skills transitions to address climate change. Our membership needed and wanted more to support them through these challenges and help them serve society. It was critical we improved the member experience and perception of value of membership. We’ve come a long way, and we’d like to celebrate our achievements and share what an exciting time is planned for member engagement in the months and years ahead.

Reflections from the first MEC

To improve member engagement and the member experience, IChemE carried out two all-member surveys which included member interviews and input from key committees and groups to understand “What Matters to You” (see TCEs 937/938, 944 and 964). In response to your feedback, we established the very first Member Engagement Committee (MEC) in December 2021. I’m really grateful to those first curious volunteers willing to step into the undefined with me. I remember those early discussions where we grappled with what engagement meant for such a diverse group as the global chemical engineering community, how were we going to measure success, and decide what to tackle first. We chose to start at the beginning of the member journey and better understand the needs of student and early careers, conducting a gap analysis to prioritise actions from student feedback. We used this to provide input into the student value proposition and support staff-led activities aimed at fostering stronger links with student bodies and the heads of chemical engineering departments, as outlined in Boosting Student Engagement (see TCE 982, p27).

I am pleased to see more volunteer roles for students and early careers members, including representation on the MEC, national boards, and the Learned Society Committee. We’ve also ventured into a range of other activities which include global careers fairs, free student membership, establishment of the Malaysian Early Careers Group, collaboration with external bodies including European Young Engineers, and participation in Voice of the Future. We hope you’ve benefited from the articles and student support initiatives from the early careers groups in the UK and Malaysia. I especially enjoyed the career insights series, including discussion surrounding the benefits of a PhD (see TCEs 978/979981), the importance of industrial placements (see TCE 987) and the Malaysian online event, Mythbusting: Engineering abroad: Is further really better?

As a committee we’ve made our voice heard on important topics such as the Technical Challenge Report which covers what the “just transition” means for IChemE and its members.1 We’ve also collaborated with staff to support the outcomes of the Volunteer Engagement Project, including improving clarity around the volunteer roles available, the time commitment and skills required for each role, and increased onboarding support, culminating in the publication of the first volunteer handbook. Volunteer recognition remains a priority and as a result IChemE has refreshed and improved prizes and awards, such as the new IChemE Young Engineers Awards for Innovation and Sustainability,2 increased thank you letters and acknowledgments, and rolled out digital badges.

Elevating impact – what’s next?

This is a really exciting time for member engagement: the release of Strategy 2028+ focuses on supporting a vibrant and thriving profession and servic­ing society by collaborating with others; the formation of a new Member Experience and Professional Learning directo­rate under Rachel Bibby; and successful selection of the next Member Engagement Committee are all key to making big changes in the coming months.

The new committee

To increase member participation, a standard term on the MEC is two years, with continuity being provided by a third of the committee being asked to serve a second term. The new committee is drawn from across all membership grades, with 60% representing the voice of student and early careers and, in line with our membership base, 40% representing membership outside of UK and Ireland including Australia, Malaysia, Philippines, and the Middle East. Adriana Vargas-Colwill, a MEC member and trustee, supports us in building a diverse membership by embedding diversity and inclusion principles.

The new committee is excited to support initiatives that impact the overall member experience, grow our community, and improve our ability to collaborate and network. As Hugh Paterson’s Spotlight article in May’s TCE highlighted, it’s important to actively participate in these discussions.

The recent salary survey indicated how important networking and a broader diverse set of “soft skills” were to the future employability of our membership. While we will continue to support existing initiatives around student and early careers and volunteer recognition, this year’s focus is on career journey support for the whole membership and sustainable growth in engagement with member groups and special interest groups (SIGs).

Strategic enablers

Our strategic goals of supporting a vibrant and thriving profession, and serving society by collaborating with others, will be underpinned by five enablers to ensure the goals are achieved.

Diversity of member engagement committee

Student and early careers

Our new student members, Leonardo Brandao and Rachel Manning, are keen to support collaboration between IChemE, student societies, and outreach. This includes supporting development of the newly launched Student Hub (https://bit.ly/3QHrr1S), and DiscoverChemEng, with a growing platform of tools and initiatives to engage with schools and encourage industry-education collaborations. Exciting plans include improved international engagement with young people through an innovative new work experience platform and rollout of the Young Engineers Awards for Innovation and Sustainability in other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We’d like to encourage members to get involved – check out the opportunities on the DiscoverChemEng volunteers page: https://bit.ly/48Ltic2

The new MEC have already approved changes for the early careers groups, giving them the same standing as local member groups – supporting their visibility and inclusion in member discussions and networking.

Article by Andrea Hosey CEng FIChemE

Practice managing consultant for chemicals and future fuels at Worley Consulting and vice-president member engagement at IChemE

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