Once I knew that I was going to be made redundant at Allied Steel & Wire, I started to be serious about looking for jobs, and as one string on my bow I decided to join the Institute of Materials (now called Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining or IOM3). In my case this was quite easy, and merely amounted to giving evidence of various types of activities which are required of any candidate who wants to be a successful applicant. Presumably fresh engineers start off on a junior membership and gradually build up a portfolio to become a professional member. But, as I’ve stated before, I already had the full package, and it was merely a matter of making my case.
Plus, I had the backing of my boss Tony Franks (who was a professional member himself) and Bob Walker (who was a fellow of the institute). When I actually had to do the final interview, this was easy too, since two of the main people for the interview were managers at Welsh Labs, where I had just joined Tinplate R&D. In fact, one of them remarked that normally people at my stage in their career usually started thinking about applying for fellowship.
I can’t remember whether I was very active as a member during my time at Welsh Labs, but I did attend several lectures once I had moved to Ebbw Vale, since the Ebbw Vale Metallurgical Society not only was a very active and well-attended local branch of the IoM, but its chairmen were also some of the leading managers of the Ebbw Vale Works, hence it was seen by most young engineers as a clever move to be seen to become involved.
Then, upon the closure of Ebbw Vale, the local branch became far less relevant, consisting mostly of retired engineers, and the events from the Newport and Swansea branches seemed too distant. So I gradually got disengaged, and in the end all I had for my membership fees was a monthly copy of Materials World and a quarterly copy of Steel World, neither of which I did more than leaf through and then discard as pretty much an irrelevance. I had come to the point that I was going to stop my membership, when my boss said that Corus was willing to pay my professional fees provided I made myself available in a mentoring capacity for young graduates and was willing to take part in graduate interviews.
I didn’t mind, and so it happened that I was assigned a graduate, who I only saw once, and who I think left the company after a few months. Apart from the magazines and a few lectures in Swansea University the relevance of the Institute gradually diminished, and I had the impression that when times got hard, interest in professional membership in general was on a downward slide as well (as far as the management team was concerned, that is). It was then almost with a sigh of relief that I handed in my resignation as a professional member on my retirement. This act was accepted without too much comment, presumably retiring as an engineer allows you not to be considered as an active member anyway.
So in the end, was it worth it ? Just for a few years in Ebbw Vale I saw what it could have been, but for most of my days as a member, the answer had to be no. I suppose membership might have made a difference in case I had to look out for a new job, but since I never had to take the parachute option, the relevance of professional membership was never tested.