Risk Management Offers Engineers Diverse Career Opportunities
Risk management is key in every sector – particularly for engineers managing complex projects
The Institute for Risk Management, the leading professional body for the sector, runs a wide range of interactive short courses for people who work in dangerous industries, particularly engineers.
It runs a wide range of courses, has strong ties to the engineering industry and offers diverse career development opportunities.
Given the huge boom in construction that the UK needs, both in terms of infrastructure and the building of new towns and housing, engineers are going to be in demand as austerity winds down – engineers who are trained risk managers even more so.
Given how few young women go into engineering, it’s encouraging that many of the institute's students are women, says Sush Amar, IRM’s communications officer.
A risk management certificate allows engineers to evolve in various careers – from risk officers in global companies to specialists and experts in particular areas such as cyber security, flood protection, or large infrastructure projects.
One of IRM’s board members, for example, says Sush, manages complex risks around the HS2 construction project – the proposed new high-speed rail network for the UK, connecting London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham.
“Another one, an electrical engineer by background, advises fire and rescue services around the country on the management of their risks.”
She adds: “Some of our students set up their own risk consultancies, advising a wide range of clients. That’s the beauty of an enterprise-wide approach to risk management – you can take it everywhere and use it anywhere.
“More globally, with the development boom in the Middle East and West Africa, where risk professionals are scarce and in high demand, we’re hoping our students will be able to raise awareness of the added value risk management brings among businesses and governments alike.”
However, the institute does not teach risk management specifically for a sector, but tries to take a general approach.
“Our two main qualifications are the International Certificate in Risk Management and the International Diploma in Risk Management,” says Shush.
She continues: “Both are distance-learning courses, so we’ve got students everywhere from South Africa and the Netherlands to the Middle East.”
The International Certificate is much less demanding of students’ time than the International Diploma; most students complete it within six to nine months, and the IRM estimates each of the two modules requires 180-200 hours of study.
For the Certificate, the first module is assessed by a 90-minute multiple choice exam, and the second through a three-hour exam which is a mix of short answer and essay-style questions.
The IRM also runs the International Diploma, which is set at postgraduate level and is significantly more demanding than the other qualifications. It takes three years on average to obtain.
Most students are doing the qualification while holding down a full-time job, Sush says.
“We always ask them for their advice for other potential students. Diploma students say: ‘Don’t underestimate the time commitment’. But then they invariably add: ‘But it’s worth it’.”
The feedback from students tends to focus on how they manage change. “They are now more confident introducing risk management into their work and their team’s work,” Sush says.
The IRM takes a holistic approac, she adds. “They [students] see the bigger picture and they understand it. Diploma graduates have said they are more likely to be treated as ‘partners’ by senior staff, because they now clearly have their own expertise.”
The IRM often says that risk management is the newest profession, Sush says.
“We’re very clear it is a profession, just like teaching or the law. All professionals need to have a framework for learning and developing, and they need to show high standards of behaviour and ethics, too.”
That’s particularly important for those working at the “coal face” of risk, like engineers, because they hold the commercial and physical safety of so many people in their hands.
“We think it’s time the wider world recognised how important risk management is in all our daily lives, and what an important job our members do,” Sush adds.
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