Jon Prichard, IChemE CEO, shares updates from the latest meeting
THE final Council meeting for 2016/17 was hosted in Birmingham on 10 May, alongside the successful Hazards 27 conference. A relatively short amount of time had elapsed since the previous meeting, and so my introductory report was necessarily short. I commented on the work being done by the staff to implement the projects identified in my initial review of the Institution, as well as providing updates on the ongoing challenges being faced by the Science Council and also the UK engineering institutions’ response to recommendations made by John Uff QC in his 2016 review of the profession in the UK.
The deputy president, John McGagh, reminded Council that an important piece of work had been initiated in May 2016 and that it was framed by good practice as articulated by the Canadian Institute on Governance. A steering group had met the previous day and the deputy president summarised its recommendations to Council. They had focussed on what needs to be achieved and stayed clear of trying to define how it would be implemented. This included considering how to balance the needs of members, other stakeholders and wider society whilst also ensuring greater transparency and accountability. After a good debate, it was agreed that I should bring forward a comprehensive member consultation plan to the next Council meeting in July. I was asked to ensure that members are able to contribute to the consultation through a variety of channels including digital tools, SIGs, member groups and country boards. It was agreed that the consultation should be conducted in time to inform and steer Council discussion in early November.
The president then introduced a discussion item considering what guidance Council should provide to the Institution’s committees as to the definition of a chemical engineer. Chemical engineering as a profession spans many sectors with increasing diversity and for the Institution to remain relevant to its members, its processes must reflect the developments in the profession. One approach that was suggested was to consider the chemical engineer as the scheme architect, who must have the ability to see the big picture whilst understanding the relevance of design to the construction and operation of plants at the relevant scale and also ensuring that the process is safe and delivers the required outcomes. The Qualifications Committee had previously defined chemical engineering as “adding value to a substance through molecular transformation”. After a good discussion, Council, whilst noting that not all those working in chemical engineering are or can be considered to be chemical engineers, agreed that a broad definition is required that encourages all those who practise as chemical engineers to apply for peer recognition through professional membership. I was then asked to ensure that this broad and embracing approach be used to inform the thinking that underpins the “Welcoming Gateways” project which is being set up to look at our membership processes.
Council then went on to consider and approve an update to the charter for the IChemE Safety Centre. The changes set out to provide clarity as to how the Centre is governed, whilst also ensuring that its members have the opportunity to understand how they contribute to the advancement of process safety both directly through their engagement with the centre and more generally through the promotion of professional standards.
I then informed Council of the outcome of the member ballot and they welcomed the election of Sean Moran, noting the significant member turnout. The president then proposed and Council agreed that David York be appointed as vice-president technical to replace Jon-Paul Sherlock. After a highly successful career with Proctor and Gamble, York has latterly taken up an appointment with the University of Leeds.
Council considered the reports for the regional and national boards before moving on to the report from the contracts committee. Harrow highlighted research carried out by the University of Manchester that had looked at the spectrum of contracts available and had concluded that the IChemE forms were some of the most balanced and least likely to cause disputes. Council welcomed this independent endorsement and congratulated the contracts committee for their excellent work.
Before closing the meeting, the president commented that as this was his last meeting in the chair he would like to thank Council for its support during the year and in particular he thanked Andrew Jamieson and Steve Harrow for whom this was also their last meeting.