Sainsbury Management Fellows

President’s Speech – David Falzani 2012

Many of you will know that it’s been our intention for The SMF to become a charity. I am pleased to report that in October last year we incorporated as a company limited by guarantee. This both provides limited liability for members and also allows for perpetual succession – this means that SMF is poised to continue in the future as an entity in its own right. And, I’m delighted to report that, just a few days ago, the Charity Commission confirmed our new status as a registered charity – number 1147203. This is the culmination of several years of work and positions the Fellowship for an exciting future. We now have a tax efficient method for receiving funds from our Patron and sponsors; as well as Fellows who wish to ‘give back’ into the scheme.

Our vision as an organisation remains the same – to promote and demonstrate the value of a combined business and engineering education to improve the performance of the UK economy. This vision has now been captured in our charitable objects, which are
“To advance education and training for the public benefit, in particular but not exclusively by:

  • First – promoting continuing business education for those in the engineering profession to develop their skills in innovation, better management and governance
  • Second – creating and operating a charitable fund for the support of their continuing education
  • And third – developing a network of engineers who are, or have been, engaged in such education in order to identify and illustrate its merits for the public benefit.

I hope you will agree that these objects convey the dynamism of the future role that the Fellowship and individual Fellows could play in the national economy.
There are three key points which the SMF is keen to address regarding the image and status of engineers:

Firstly, a key question that we grappled with this year is: ‘what name should we use for people who, like our Fellows, are engineers with a formal management qualification and business track record?’. There doesn’t appear to be a suitable word or phrase. Without a distinct appellation, how do we identify those who have augmented their engineering qualification with management and business skills, and become more effective leaders? And if we can’t identify them, how do we promote and communicate the value of this combination, and create an appropriately attractive image in the mind of our audience?
We will work on finding an answer to these questions. On a related note I am most grateful to Paul Jackson and EngineeringUK who have researched how many company board directors have an engineering qualification.

Would it surprise you to know that almost 15% of FTSE100 executive board members have an engineering degree? And that 60% of FTSE100 companies have a least one qualified engineer on the board of directors?

Given the audience here tonight I hope that you are not too surprised. Many of you know the value of engineering skills in business and the benefits they can bring to a boardroom table.

Second, the UK is still the 6th largest manufacturer in the world and the sector contributes enormous value to the UK economy. (PAUSE) Attending a recent Manufacturing Summit, I was struck by the need for a new definition of the word ‘manufacturing’.(PAUSE) We can all agree that the image and status of manufacturing and engineering is important, not least in the ability to recruit and retain the best people. It seems that manufacturing can often be construed to mean, at best, the activities related to people working in factories. And at worst, something similar to the often used image of a 50 year old lathe with attendant cutting fluid and brown overalled operator.

How much better it would be to redefine the term to mean the vision, conception, design and delivery of products. It’s this whole chain of activities that develops the vast economic value added, offered by manufacturing.

Thirdly, when asked “What image springs to mind when you think of an engineer?”, many people will unfortunately answer “Someone with a hardhat.” Finding a way of visually depicting an engineering professional is a difficult task given the diversity of activities, including the microscopic, and sometimes the invisible. It becomes even more difficult when trying to also portray an image & status that engineers would wish to have and accurately reflect the rewards and importance of the profession.

Perhaps this explains the rather predictable visual images often used by the profession to portray itself. (PAUSE) At a recent Royal Academy of Engineering event that Fellows participated in, we asked engineering undergraduates to look at current engineering job adverts and press articles and asked them to judge the images and photography used.

They said in short, that the graphics were outdated, the images were patronising and grimy, and the text uninspiring. We think it’s high time to get inspirational about the image of engineering and put some enthusiasm into the way we market ourselves and our companies!
To help highlight this issue, I’m pleased to announce that we plan to shortly launch a Hard Hat index. Similar in ethos to the whimsical but effective Big Mac Index, this index will measure how well the engineering profession portrays itself by tracking a number of visual photographic cues in publications. We hope that by highlighting this issue, we can open a discussion on why it’s so important for the profession to take a fresh look at its own image and why companies, institutions, and most notably individual engineers need to lead by example. It’s time for all of us here to step forward.

I would also like all our Fellows to consider how they can contribute to improving the UK economy by participating in some of our outward reaching programmes, such as, our mentoring scheme to young engineers, and our start-up business review panels. And in our new profile as a charity, we would welcome your ideas, support, and participation in helping us to go forward confidently into the future.

And , I would just like to say a brief word of thanks to all of the people who made this year’s achievements happen – Our Treasurer Alpesh Amin, our Secretary James Raby and our retiring Committee Members: Julian Fagandini, who has resigned from the committee after six years of service, and past President Ernie Poku, who has relocated to Ghana. I would also like to express our appreciation to current Committee members who have worked over the last 12 months with amazing energy, resourcefulness and creativity: Paul Dolan, Jo Hallas, Andrew Hogwood, Julian Morley and our newest members: Serge Taborin and Phil Westcott. Also, my sincere thanks to all the Fellows who have participated in events, interview panels and who have written articles or spoken to the media on our behalf, and to our Comms Director, Cathy Breeze, who works tirelessly, often in the background and skilfully enables everything else.

My thanks also to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and our friends from the Royal Academy of Engineering, EngineeringUK, and other institutions for their continued support and encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Lord Sainsbury, without whom none of this would have been possible.

I am delighted to introduce Lord Sainsbury, who has graciously agreed to say a few words before our first course is served.


More Blogs

The Sainsbury Management Fellows is registered as a charity: Engineers in Business Fellowship, charity number 1147203 and is a company limited by guarantee : 07807250