This may seem like a strange question from someone fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to study for and achieve the degrees that I hold. However, should a university degree be the “be all and end all” when it comes to recruiting staff into engineering functions?

What prompted this post was a meeting with a someone who I hold in high regard. The person in question followed an apprentice route and is a skilled craftsman. They have continued to learn, develop and successfully attain recognised higher qualifications. They are also widely recognised to be hard working, dedicated and to have delivered some significant projects.

Yet, despite all of this it is implied, under applied policies, that they do not have sufficient intelligence to become a staff engineer. Here I use the word intelligence to mean “The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge” (, on the basis that they do not hold a university degree.

What irks me about this situation is that I have been fortunate to work with many skilled engineers who could show and have shown many highly qualified graduates a thing or two about engineering and that are subject matter experts in their field. I also know many successful people in other fields that do not hold formal qualifications, yet this has not stopped them being successful.

I recognise that there is a need to continue to develop and grow the skills and competencies of employees and that generally the award of a degree is a good indicator of the ability to learn and apply new knowledge. However, should it be a rigid rule that not holding a degree should exclude individuals who have clearly demonstrated these abilities via a different route? This may be the exception rather than the rule, however, I feel that there should be more pragmatism applied. To deny someone of obvious potential the opportunity to progress does a disservice to both the individual and the organisation in which they work.