In praise of not Engineers, but Ingeniators !

When I was an undergraduate we Natural Scientists looked down on engineers as being hardly worthy of a university education – mere tinkerers with lathes and suchlike we thought. Mind you we also looked down on students of English – mere dreamers and wordsmiths – and most other varieties of student though not quite as much. We had a sneaking regard for Mathematicians and felt there was a place for linguists.

Latterly, however, my perception of engineers has changed in no small measure through watching Dick Strawbridge’s exploits in the Escape to the Chateau TV series. Watching what he has done and is doing to his own chateau and those of others he is helping, has made me understand the mindset that sees all “problems” as innately soluble, dreams up solutions and perhaps most important of all implements these solutions.

Of course with our current chaotic government and ineffective civil service making such a mess of the COVID pandemic challenge such a “can do and will do” mindset seems particularly attractive and desirable. Urgently needed indeed !

Looking back on my own career in the NHS, local government and academe I can now see how rare this “can see, can do, will do” mindset was and I am sure still is. In my experience my public health colleagues were much more interested in commenting on circumstances and the doings of others than in doing things themselves. And my experience as an NHS chief executive was that waiting to implement fiats from the Department of Health and being held to account for implementing them was the name of the game albeit realising that such fiats, by their very provenance – civil servants and re-election conscious politicians – were bound to be several years behind the times and the current requirements of the Service. In fact my three years experience as a District General Manager – as we were called in those days – was that doing innovative things was not on the agenda at all. In fact such activity was frowned upon from on high and resulted in me falling out with my chairman who, like most health authority chairman , was only interested in following the route required by the Department of Health and the regional health authority and in keeping his scorecard clean.

So I was delighted to see in a recent Times piece by Nicola Woodcock, its Education Editor, that there is a movement to highlight the crucial role of engineers by designating them as INGENIATORS to distinguish them from engineers in common parlance who tend to be envisaged as guys with spanners in their hands and tinkering with cars. The word ingeniator clearly implies ingeniousness, inventiveness and making things happen. Paul Walker

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