How your application to get Chartered is processed
SO you have just sent off your application for Chartered Chemical Engineer to IChemE but have no idea what happens next. Lots of questions: Where does it go in the IChemE offices? What review process does it follow? When and where will my interview be? How long will it be before I am Chartered? Many applicants have the same questions, so this article aims to remove some of the mystery.
First things first. While your application will be steered through the application process by IChemE’s membership team, the assessment and interview stages are conducted by Chartered Chemical Engineers who are volunteers from different areas of our industry, and from all over the world. It is very important to appreciate that you are being assessed by your peers, who have already reached the Chartered standard and understand what a Chartered Chemical Engineer should know and how they should act. The Professional Formation Forum (PFF) oversees the whole process. The PFF is a committee of IChemE Fellows who are all volunteers too, and have the responsibility to ensure that your application is assessed fairly, and to recommend election if you meet the required standard. The PFF will, via IChemE’s membership team, also advise you on what to do if your application has not reached the required standard.
The PFF meets monthly to review membership applications at a virtual election panel (VEP). This means we connect with each other via video conference software after having reviewed the applications prior to each meeting. Typically, the VEP reviews around 50 applications each month. In 2016 the PFF had an extremely busy year – electing almost 600 Chartered Chemical Engineers, and more than 100 Fellows, as well as approving six new and 14 existing Accredited Company Training Schemes (ACTS), and other grades of membership and registrations. As the PFF is so central to IChemE’s membership, I’ll explain more about how it functions, and take you through the membership application process in more detail.
The PFF consists of IChemE Fellows who are experienced interviewers and assessors, and are invited to join the PFF in order to share their knowledge and experience. The PFF ensures both a fair and consistent outcome for candidates, and upholds the standards of both IChemE (by-laws and regulations) and the regulatory bodies (eg Engineering Council, Science Council, Society for the Environment) with whom we work and hold a licence. I am the current chair of the PFF, having been a member of it for over nine years, and an IChemE Fellow since 2002.
Currently there are three routes to membership, depending on your educational and professional background. Please use the self assessment tool on the getchartered website (www.getchartered.org/check) or contact the IChemE membership team to work out which route is right for you. The first is for candidates with a degree accredited by IChemE to M-standard; the second is for candidates with a FEANI/Washington Accord degree; and the third is for all other applicants. It is understood that the third pathway needs refining, and this will be addressed as part of IChemE’s “Welcoming Gateways” project, which forms one of the most important facets of the
Institution’s strategy for the next three years. Welcoming Gateways will seek to establish more appropriate pathways into membership for the significant proportion of members who do not hold an accredited M-standard degree. This is a topic in its own right and will be the subject of a dedicated article in a future edition of The Chemical Engineer.
You will have been asked to provide referees who can confirm your experience and readiness to apply for Chartered status. The IChemE membership team will contact each referee and make sure they are willing to support you.
You must submit a Competence and Commitment report, which allows you to demonstrate your professional experience and your strong understanding and application of chemical engineering practice. This report will be assessed by one of our trained volunteer assessors, who is given around two weeks to respond – they may conclude that your report is satisfactory, or may request revisions. Assuming that your report is accepted as meeting the required standard, the IChemE membership team will then allocate two Chartered Members of IChemE who are trained interviewers to meet with you. If you are following the second or third route to Chartered status, then you are also required to submit a design or technical report for assessment by an experienced assessor, and in the case of a technical report, this forms the basis for a separate interview. You will have the opportunity to arrange a convenient date, time and location with the interviewers. Depending on your location and the availability of interviewers, this may be face-to-face with both interviewers, entirely virtual (all participants meeting via video-link), or semi-virtual with the candidate and one interviewer face-to-face and the other interviewer joining by video link. Once the assessments and interviews are complete, and the required references have been gathered, applications are reviewed for completeness and compliance to IChemE’s standards by one of the PFF’s registrars. The registrar will make their recommendation to the PFF and your application will be allocated to the next scheduled VEP meeting.
The VEP, held at the end of each month, is the culmination of the peer-review process. Ten days before the VEP, members of the PFF are asked to view the applications under consideration within our online membership application review system (MARS), to ensure we are fully prepared for the meeting. At the VEP meeting we firstly consider any applications that have been flagged for discussion by the registrar or other members of the PFF. These applications are discussed until a consensus is reached. Possible outcomes include electing a candidate, asking them for more information, or arranging a further interview, agreeing a short deferral (where the candidate needs to resubmit some element of their reports and attend a further interview), or a full deferral of the application (where the candidate must reapply in full, if they wish to do so, in the future). Following the VEP, the IChemE membership team will contact you to let you know the outcome, and if further revisions are required, to provide feedback from the peer-review process. The PFF is committed to driving consistency and continuous improvement and so I, as chair, may contact assessors and interviewers where the PFF has requested that specific feedback should be given.
Let’s come back to the concept of the Virtual Election Panel. As I’m sure you’re aware, IChemE is a global institution, with members in over 120 countries. As a result, the PFF reviews applications from candidates all around the world. To ensure that it represents all of our members, the PFF is an international committee, with the most significant presence from Australia, Ireland, Malaysia and the UK. We use GoToMeeting web-based technology to enable us to meet virtually, wherever we are in the world. (We also use this technology to enable us to conduct interviews virtually).
Just as the PFF is a global team, so is the IChemE membership team that supports it. Led by Rachel Baxter-Smith, head of member services, the team is located at the head office in Rugby, and in IChemE’s offices in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.
In addition to the monthly VEPs, we hold a quarterly PFF development meeting. Whilst the VEPs are purely operational in nature, the development meetings focus on improvement, and we prioritise areas for review. For example, we are currently examining our requirements for referees, and our guidance on the Fellow grade. We review data on the application process, consider the sustainability of volunteer pools and consider feedback from candidates. The need to comply with IChemE’s regulations, as well as meeting the conditions of the licensing bodies remain at the forefront of our minds when considering change, and indeed when conducting business in our VEPs.
We know that some applicants find the application process lengthy, as it typically takes several months from submitting an application to a VEP decision. In the PFF development meetings we’re working to address that issue by identifying the bottlenecks and suggesting ways to remove them. We also plan to publish more information on the Chartered Member application process on IChemE’s website, in order to give a greater insight into all the stages an application must pass through on its journey to the VEP. We want to streamline our processes and we are addressing the issue of sustainability of our pool of assessors and interviewers. We have made big strides to address availability challenges in this area. Our assessors and interviewers are volunteers and show fantastic commitment to IChemE while holding down day jobs and other commitments. For example, when not chairing the PFF, my day job is managing the process engineering department in KBR UK.
Candidates can also greatly assist: right-first-time reports will significantly speed things up, as each and every revision of a report has to be reassessed. We urge you to use a mentor who has been through the process, and to consult the guidance available on the IChemE website before submitting your application. Finally, please check with your referees that they are available to provide a reference for you.
If you or your colleagues require any help in applying for membership of IChemE, please contact email@example.com. If you’d like to contact me regarding the PFF, please email firstname.lastname@example.org