Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager at the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), explains how and why engineers should work towards EngTech status.

There are approximately 200,000 people working in the plumbing and heating industry. While the vast majority hold themselves to a high standard, a small percentage tarnish the reputation of the plumbing and heating trade. In part, this is happening because licensing in the UK is not yet a legal requirement.

Aside from gas engineers, anyone can currently claim to be a plumbing and heating engineer and set up their own business, regardless of their qualifications. This allows rogue traders to operate, ultimately putting vulnerable people at risk. 

The CIPHE campaigns regularly for the introduction of a governed licensing programme that would ensure genuine plumbing and heating engineers are recognised by law. 

While licensing isn’t yet a legal requirement, the CIPHE maintains its dedication to helping installers prove their professionalism. One way that the CIPHE can help its members do this is by helping them to achieve EngTech status.

What is EngTech?

EngTech is a globally recognised level of professional registration for Engineering Technicians. It is a formal recognition of engineering skills and competence, which helps to highlight the experience that an EngTech plumbing and heating engineer holds.

Professional registration highlights a commitment to the principles of the wider engineering community, alongside a commitment to the plumbing and heating profession. Through continuing professional development (CPD), as well as research into new and innovative practices, registered engineers can prove they have the skills and professionalism needed to offer safe and reliable workmanship.

Those engineers who are already registered will also know that customers and employers have a greater degree of confidence in professionals with EngTech status. As a result, it can further increase the likelihood that registered members will be approached for more work. 

What is the process? 

It is important to be aware that, while EngTech registration is open to anyone who can demonstrate the required professional competences and commitment, there are two distinct routes for individuals to take. 

The first is the academic route, for those who are in possession of the correct academic qualifications from licensed registered bodies, and who also hold current membership of a professional engineering institute, such as the CIPHE. Meeting these criteria will mean you can apply for EngTech status and be registered through that professional institute via assessment only.

The second pathway is designed for individuals who may not have formal qualifications, but who can demonstrate the necessary competence through substantial working experience. This allows the many installers who learned their trade ‘on the job’ to work towards their own professional recognition. 

This route has two key stages in the process. The first is a professional review, which looks at a range of documents, including CPD records, application forms, and anything else that indicates the level of experience an engineer may 
have. The second stage is an interview, which is essentially a discussion of the evidence that has been submitted.

How the CIPHE can help

The CIPHE is in a position to help its members achieve EngTech registration. Anyone who holds Member status or above, which usually means holding a minimum of a full NVQ Level 3 or City & Guilds Advanced Craft Certificate (or equivalent), with the appropriate practical experience, is ideally positioned to apply for EngTech registration with the Engineering Council. 

CIPHE Assessors are available to advise applicants of where the criteria has been met and where more is required to achieve the necessary standard. We can also provide peer guidance and support in working towards the standard in order to achieve a successful outcome. 

There are a host of reasons to embark on the path towards Engineering Council registration, with benefits for both the individual and the industry as a whole. Professional registration forms a significant part of the process of raising standards within plumbing and heating, and the responsibility lies with the individual to take that first step. 

The importance of professional registration

“Registering with the Engineering Council and achieving EngTech status helps to provide a distinction between those who have dedicated their professional life to the industry, and those who are simply looking to make a quick buck. This is why professional registration is important, especially as anyone can currently set up a plumbing and heating business, regardless of qualifications.

“I currently work as a plumbing lecturer at Inverness College UHI, having worked in the plumbing and heating industry for over 25 years. I started as an apprentice, and my career has taken me across the globe, from Namibia to the Antarctic. 

“While I have been particularly fortunate in terms of the breadth of my experiences, I think it is fair to say that anyone who has worked as an installer for a substantial period will have built up a wealth of knowledge.

“Since achieving EngTech status and becoming a Fellow of the CIPHE in 2018, I have used my position to promote best practices in plumbing, and to highlight instances where installers are mistreated by false information online. I’ve also lectured on the links between drugs/alcohol abuse and workplace accidents alongside my rewarding work at the college

“Until legislation enforces professional registration in the plumbing and heating sector, the onus is on us, the individuals, to take it upon ourselves. By registering with professional bodies, such as the Engineering Council and the CIPHE, and engaging with CPD, we can raise the standards of our industry, and take pride in the work that we do.”

Jimmy Hendry, Master Plumber, EngTech, FCIPHE, RP