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Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with being a tech?

jay321
Hooked
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Registered: ‎13-03-2021

Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with being a tech?

Hey, when Plusnet offered to send an engineer round to my house, I wondered what on Earth for. I thought that maybe I'd been selected for a focus group in designing a new product for home networking and was to be greeted by a white collar product development engineer looking for feedback. Still highly suspect that they'd be coming round to my house though.

That's great, since I've been in these sorts of focus groups before. I was really interested to see if I could help given my massive passion for smart devices and having everything synced up and stored on the cloud.

To my confusion I find out in the fine print that they mean to say they intend to send over a telecoms technician/installation technician to complete the hardware installation of my router.

So, what's with the false terminology being pushed by this industry? You'd probably not find any other English-speaking countries confusing engineers and telecoms technicians. There's nothing wrong with being a telecoms technician damnit!

Exactly this sort of terminology confusion is a significant part of the reason why we have such a shortage of highly-skilled engineers in so many UK high-tech industries, and has been surveyed and spoken about in great lengths by essentially all the UK engineering institutions.

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Disclaimer. I actually work in space comms, as an engineer designing next gen laser communication hardware under space agency contracts. I have been on various engineering society panels in publicity, and have taught engineering and technology degree classes to students from 18 to 40, so know this issue and exactly how this dissuades people and affects the 'skills pipeline' all too well. On the other side, I've known some great techs who have mountains of hands-on experience in the field and in industry for 1st and 2nd line support. So why not call a spade a spade? Plusnet is absolutely at fault for confusing the general public.

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jgb
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Registered: ‎01-08-2007

Re: Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with

This has been an ongoing issue in the UK for decades. In many other countries the term "Engineer" is legally protected and can only be applied to professionally qualified engineers. In some countries it is a title similar to how Doctor is used in this country for a medical doctor.

The Engineering Institutions in the UK (who accredit the professional qualifications) asked the UK government to similarly protect the title some years ago but the government refused saying there was no need to do soas there was no confusion with the present situation.

Therefore in the UK we have the situation where "engineer" is used to describe jobs such as mechanics, fitters, technicians, and engineers. There is nothing wrong with any of these jobs but it would be better if the terminology was sorted out.

 As @jay321 says it is one reason why the UK has a shortage of professional engineers as the career is not seen as worth pursuing and not on a par with other professions since the true role of professional engineers is misunderstood by many people. 

jay321
Hooked
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Registered: ‎13-03-2021

Re: Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with

You raise some interesting points @jgb. From my own account, I loved "inventing" and "technology" from my earliest memories. I loved "design & technology" class at school. Always loved to tinker, maths and physics came naturally etc. Yet even at 18 years old applying to UK universities I 100% understood "engineering" at university to be synonymous with "machining", and understood all "engineering managers" would work all on managing the operators of plant (machinery) such as lathes anddrills in manufacturing facilities.

 

So the only reason I became an engineer was sheer chance (my management studies course was over-subscribed and I was shunted into an engineering management course).

 

How could this happen? Well, I was from a lower income background. None of my family's connections were engineers. None of the design classes were "engineering". I remember vividly engineers exclusively meaning "Sky technicians" in the context of the home.

 

I wonder how many other people, perfect for engineering, didn't know the career even existed because their parents weren't white collar enough or because their teachers mentioned the "engineer" coming round to fix their washing machine leak. You know it used to also go the same for car mechanics but I've seen that less in recent years.

 

Now I've got the masters and become chartered (MEng CEng MIMechE) but even (non-engineering) employers in STEM education often aren't familiar with the CEng title, or don't see the differentiation between say a CEng design role and say a CAD technician or installation / repair technician. Now I see telecoms providers as probably the loudest proponents of this blurring - it keeps the design engineers' pay down too sadly - that's why I'm now looking to move to work in Europe.

 

Again, Sky, Plusnet, etc. are absolutely at blame for confusing the public. It wouldn't fly in say much of Europe or the USA where a technician calling themselves a professional engineer (particularly when signing off on things) would actually be illegal.

jgb
Aspiring Champion
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Re: Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with

@jay321 I had never considered engineering as a career until I attended an after school careers session where there was a talk on the construction of the Forth Road Bridge and other major heavy civil engineering structures - yes this was back in the late 1960s!

I had always thought about careers like accountancy and other number based jobs as I preferred maths and science subjects at school although I did also study English, and classical languages. I had never really appreciated the wide breadth of engineering disciplines nor the work those engineers did in all aspects of life. That talk opened my eyes and after it and a bit more research, I was sold on civil engineering as a career. I went off to do an extra curricular course at school on technical drawing (not offered at my school which tended towards traditional academic subjects) and applied to university to do civil engineering. The rest is history and I spent 40 years or so in the heavy civils and structures field before retiring.

Yes, the misuse of the title has probably not helped recruitment to the industry which is to the potential detriment of the country.

MauriceC
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Re: Why does Plusnet call telecoms technicians "engineers"? Is there something wrong with

I fully understand the problem and the surrounding issues, but not the rhetoric?  I share much of the @jay321 background and progression, but never found it to be a major problem.   Discovered Computers at 17, self tutored in binary and logic design and decided that was my aim in life.  To set this in a timescale, this was 1962! 

Did HNC Electronics & Telecomms and worked in Industry before slipping sideways into Computer maintenance on an old valve based (True) Ferranti Pegasus and thence into Computers full time in 1967 (English Electric, later ICL).  Did lots of training, rose through the ranks, helped develop many Comms and Ethernet products.  Perhaps I was lucky, but kept looking forward - and yes, even back in those early days I could differentiate between the various categories of "Engineer"

Still dabbling with AI and Networks - but much less active.

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